BREAKING: Doug Ford to order closure of all non-essential businesses in Ontario

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At a March 23 press conference, Ontario Premier Doug Ford announced that, starting tomorrow, all non-essential businesses will be ordered to close for at least two weeks.

Ford says he'll have more details tomorrow, but told reporters that only grocery stores, pharmacies, the LCBO, essential manufacturers and supply chain providers will be permitted to remain open.

Restaurants that offer takeout and delivery will also be permitted to remain open. 

Ford said the mandatory closure of all non-essential workplaces will be effective as of Tuesday, March 24th at 11:59 p.m. This closure will be in effect for 14 days with the possibility of extending this order as the situation evolves.

A full list of businesses that are permitted to stay open will be released tomorrow.

This was a tough decision, but the right decision, as this is no time for half measures,” said Ford. “But I have said from day one we will, and we must, take all steps necessary to slow the spread of COVID-19. The health and safety of every Ontarian must come first. The health of you, your children, your grandparents and friends depends on all of us doing our part.”

Businesses that can continue operations with employees working remotely, or through other contingency measures, are being given approximately 36 hours to prepare and adapt.

Ford also told reporters that he is concerned by "appalling conditions" at construction sites, adding that he's seen photos of unsanitary conditions—including lack of sanitization products and overflowing outhouses—at some large sites.  

"Get your act together," he said. 

"Take care of front line construction workers. To have outhouses overflowing is unacceptable," he said, adding that the government will step in if companies do not make swift changes.  

Ford did not indicate that construction sites will be closed. 

Ford also told reporters that it's "unrealistic" to believe that schools will be able to reopen on April 6. The premier said he does not know when schools will reopen, emphasizing the rapid changes in the COVID-19 situation. 

When asked if the federal government should enact the Emergency Measures Act (which would allow the Canadian government to override the provinces and territories to set policy), Ford told reporters that Ontario should have the authority to make decisions that suit the province's unique situation. 

"The situation in Ontario is not the same as in another province like Prince Edward Island or New Brunwish or Nova Scotia," he said. 

When asked if the province will penalize those who violate the order to shut down, Ford said he does not want to have to act to force businesses to close, but said there will "be consequences" for those who refuse to honour the order.

He said that a vast majority of businesses have already been extremely cooperative. 

Sylvia Jones, the Solicitor General, said that the province's police partners will act if necessary. 

Ford also emphasized the importance of social distancing, with a stern warning to travellers who have just returned to Canada who are reportedly ignoring orders to self-isolate immediately after returning home.

"People are listening, but there are odd times where people will go out and gather in groups. Another thing that's concerning me…is people coming back from abroad, going into stores to get food. It's unacceptable. If you're coming from the airport, do not stop at the store—go home and self-isolate for 14 days. The rules in Florida don't apply here. [COVID-19] is spreading rapidly across the U.S," he told reporters. 

"You're putting your grandchildren, yourself and thousands and thousands of people at risk. You have to self-isolate for 14 days. No store, no gas—you're self-isolating, simple as that."

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