COVID-19: Ontario declares State of Emergency

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Ontario Premier Doug Ford has declared a provincial State of Emergency as the COVID-19 outbreak continues to spread.

At a press conference Tuesday (March 17) morning, Ford announced that there will be a prohibition of all organized public events of more than 50 people, including places of worship. This comes into effect immediately and will be in place until at least March 31.

There are currently 177 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Ontario as of publication.

We are facing an unprecedented time in our history,” Ford said. “COVID-19 constitutes a danger of major proportions.”

The premier stressed that the State of Emergency is not a provincial shutdown and that essential services will continue to operate.

Grocery stores, convenience stores, pharmacies, public transit, some offices and construction sites will still remain open.

Immediate closures include: facilities providing recreational programs, libraries, private schools, licensed child care centres, bars and restaurants (takeout and delivery permitted), theatres, cinemas and concert venues.

We must do everything possible to avoid overwhelming our health-care system,” he said. “No expense will be spared to support Ontarians in need.”

A $300-million relief package was also announced to help hospitals, health-care workers and long-term care facilities. This initial funding injection is for immediate measures and is just the first stage in a larger relief package, the premier said.

The funding will provide more protective gear for frontline health care workers, personal support workers and physicians and to support more rigorous, 24/7 screening at long-term care facilities.

The money will also go towards funding the deployment of 50 physicians to remote Indigenous communities in Ontario.

Also, the funds will go towards an additional 75 critical-care beds and 500 post-acute-care beds throughout the province.

We’ve been preparing for every possible scenario,” a sombre Ford said. “I want to assure the people of Ontario their government is taking every step possible to flatten the curve.”

The premier took this opportunity to call on the Federal Government to “immediately implement EI reforms,” to protect workers directly impacted by measures the country and province are taking to combat the spread of the virus.

We must take care of each other,” he said.

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