Ontario Government Declares State of Emergency amid Coronavirus Pandemic

Earlier this morning Premier Doug Ford formally declared a state of emergency for Ontario due to the novel coronavirus outbreak. Speaking to reporters at Queen’s Park, Premier Doug Ford said that:

“We are facing an unprecedented time in our history”

Premier Doug Ford

Despite declaring a state of emergency within the province, the Premier said that this is not a provincial shutdown: “The vast majority of businesses, including those most vital for day-to-day life will not be affected by this order. Essential services and essential needs will be available to every individual and families” he said.

The Premier further stated that grocery stores, convenience stores, pharmacies, manufacturing facilities, public transit, important public services, construction sites, and office buildings will all continue to operate.

“Right now we need to do everything possible to slow the spread of COVID-19 in order to avoid overwhelming our healthcare system. We must think about our children, parents and grandparents. We must think about the eldery, those with health issues and every other person across this province.”

“I want to assure the people of Ontario the government is taking every step possible to flatten the curve. I want to urge people to be calm. No expense will be spared to support Ontarians in need.”

Premier Ford made the announcement alongside Health Minister Christine Elliott, Finance Minister Rod Phillips and Ontario Solicitor General Sylvia Jones.

What services are ordered to close in Ontario immediately?

On Monday March 16, 2020, Premier Doug Ford expanded the province’s list of recommended closures to include recreation programs, libraries, private schools, daycares, churches and other faith settings, and more recently bars and restaurants (with an exception to those who offer takeout or delivery). In addition, Toronto Public Health ordered the closure of restaurants and bars, nightclubs, and theatres in the city and warned that businesses that don’t comply could face a penalty of up to $25,000 a day.

But as a result of a declaration of State of Emergency and associated orders, the following establishments are legally required by the province to close immediately:

  • All facilities providing indoor recreation programs
  • All public libraries 
  • All private schools, as defined in the Education Act
  • All licensed child care centres
  • All bars and restaurants, except to the extent that such facilities provide takeout food and delivery.
  • All theatres including those offering live performances of music, dance, and other art forms, as well as cinemas that show movies.
  • Concert venues.

At this point, shopping malls are not included. Many retailers have made the decision to close down anyways. 

Ford says the order bans public events of over 50 people, including parades, events and services within places of worship until March 31.

The Premier also announced the province’s COVID-19 emergency relief package, which includes $300 million ($100-million contingency fund, and is receving $200 million from the federal goverment) to support the fight against coronavirus outbreak. It will fund at least 75 more critical hospital beds, 500 post-acute beds and at least 25 more assessment centres.

The province will continue to be looking to the Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. David Williams for guidance as to when Ontarians will be able to get back to normal life. Ford said, “This is changing hour-by-hour, day-by-day.”

Toronto Mayor, John Tory, and Mississauga Mayor, Bonnie Crombie fully supported the decision via their tweets:

Only eight new cases of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) were confirmed in Ontario Tuesday, March 17, bringing the provincial total to 185, including five recoveries. The total confirmed cases in Canada as of today is 447 according to the Coronavirus Resource Centre by the John Hopkins University. 

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