March 23, 2020
Allison Jones THE CANADIAN PRESS
TORONTO – Ontario Premier Doug Ford is ordering the closure of all non-essential businesses in the province to help deal with the spread of COVID-19.
He says the order will be effective Tuesday at 11:59 p.m. and will be in place for at least 14 days.
Ford says the next 36 hours will give non-essential businesses the chance to prepare.
He says he will release the list of businesses Tuesday that will be allowed to stay open, but food will remain on the grocery store shelves and people will still have access to medication.
The premier says it was a tough decision, but now is not the time for half measures.
Ontario reported 78 new COVID-19 cases today, bringing the provincial total to 503.
It’s the largest increase in a day so far. The total includes six deaths and eight cases that have fully resolved.
At least six of the new cases are hospitalized, including a woman in her 30s, a man in his 40s, two people in their 50s and two people in their 70s.
Ford also announced that Ontario is providing a $200-million funding boost for social services, including shelters, food banks, emergency services, charities and non-profits.
Money is set to go to municipalities and social service agencies, and will help those organizations hire additional staff and operate using social distancing.
“Organizations across the province are doing critical work right now to help vulnerable Ontarians and these funds will allow them to directly help those who need it most,” Ford said in a statement.
The funding will also go toward an expanded emergency assistance program for people on welfare to help cover food, rent, informal childcare arrangements and other services.
Ontario has also enhanced its COVID-19 self-assessment tool, making it interactive and allowing the province to gather data from it.
The new tool takes users through a series of questions about their symptoms and will help them determine if they are likely to have COVID-19 and what to do.
Health Minister Christine Elliott said in a statement that the tool will give the province real-time data on the number of people who are told to seek care, self-isolate or monitor for symptoms, as well as where in the province they live.
People calling Telehealth Ontario have reported long waits, but Elliott said the service now has more than 2,000 lines running, up from about 400 before the pandemic.
The government also says Ontario has 58 dedicated COVID-19 assessment centres running, well up from the 38 Ford said were open just a few days ago.
Since Sunday, more than 1,950 people received negative test results, while more than 8,000 people are still awaiting their results.
Elliott reminded Ontarians to practice social distancing, meaning staying at least two metres away from anyone outside your immediate family, and for anyone who has travelled to stay at home and self-isolate.