It was an early morning for the Queen’s Park reporters as Premier Doug Ford declared an emergency in the province under the Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act. The move follows the latest advice from Ontario’s Medical Officer of Health who last night recommended that that Ontarians avoid large gatherings of 50 people or more, and close down any place where 50 or more people are likely to get together.
“We are facing an unprecedented time in our history,” said Ford in a statement Tuesday morning. “This is a decision that was not made lightly. COVID-19 constitutes a danger of major proportions. We are taking this extraordinary measure because we must offer our full support and every power possible to help our health care sector fight the spread of COVID-19. The health and wellbeing of every Ontarian must be our number one priority.”
As part of the declaration, all indoor recreational facilities will be closed, as well as all public libraries, licensed childcare centres, theatres, concert venues, cinemas, and all bars and restaurants excluding those that are offering takeout and delivery. Public events including parades, events, and religious services are also prohibited. These restrictions will remain in place until March 31, at which point they will be considered for extension or termination.
“We are acting on the best advice of our Chief Medical Officer of Health and other leading public health officials across the province,” said Christine Elliott, Deputy Premier and Minister of Health.
“We know these measures will affect people’s every day lives, but they are necessary to ensure that we can slow the spread of COVID-19 and protect our people,” Elliott added. “We’re working with all partners across the system, from public health to hospitals and community care, to do everything we can to contain this virus and ensure that the system is prepared to respond to any scenario.”
Guelph MPP Mike Schreiner also released a statement this morning endorsing the government’s move.
“I agree with the decision to declare a state of emergency and restrict non-essential commercial activities at this time so that we can keep people safe,” Schreiner said. “With only a narrow window to flatten the curve, we must put in place strong social distancing measures to try and limit the spread of infection.”
Schreiner has also taken his own advice. As of yesterday, his constituency office in Downtown Guelph is closed until further notice, but his staff is still available virtually by phone at 519-836-4190 and by email at mschreiner-co [at] ola.org.
“Ontarians are adjusting to a tectonic shift in their lives, and we all must pull together to support each other through these uncertain times,” Schreiner added.
The Ontario government has also announced $304 million in new new funding to combat COVID-19, including $100 million for increase capacity at hospitals, $50 million for more testing and screening at public health, and another $50 million to get frontline workers protective equipment and other supplies.
The rest of the fund will go for screenings and staffing in long-term care homes, infection control in retirement homes, assistance for residential facilities and Indigenous communities, and support for frontline workers including funds for respite and childcare.
Meanwhile at Guelph City Hall…
The City of Guelph had already followed much of the advice outlined at Queen’s Park today, but there have been some new developments.
A special meeting of City Council scheduled for March 23, which was supposed to be a council workshop on multiyear budgeting, has officially been cancelled. After the Premier’s announcement this morning, Mayor Cam Guthrie took further steps to cancel the regular meeting of council on March 30 as well, and will look for an appropriate date to reschedule in the near future.
The next scheduled meeting of City Council after that is April 6 for the monthly Committee of the Whole meeting, which is the same day that the City’s rec facilities, libraries and museums are currently scheduled to re-open, though some closures will continue through April 30.
The City says that they are hosting virtual meetings where possible including Site Plan Review and Development Review Committees. Still, all community engagement, advisory and public liaison meetings are cancelled until April 6.
City Hall and the Provincial Offences Court administration office are still open, but people who are ill, and people who have traveled outside of Canada in the last 14 days have been asked to not visit these facilities. Everyone else is being encouraged to use online services wherever possible.
Photo Courtesy of the Government of Ontario.