Ontario Premier Declares Provincial State of Emergency


TORONTO — Ontario Premier Doug Ford declared a provincial state of emergency during a press conference this morning at Queens’s Park.

“This morning I have declared a state of emergency in the province of Ontario,” Ford said. “We are facing an unprecedented time in our history…COVID-19 constitutes a danger of major proportions. We must act decisively, we must not delay.”

The state of emergency is effective immediately and means prohibiting organized events of 50 or more people and all bars, restaurants, theatres, concert venues and indoor recreation centres in the province will be prohibited from opening until at least March 31. Restaurants will still be permitted to offer takeout and delivery options.

Ford says the decision was made because they are following the advice of the chief medical officer but stressed that the state of emergency does not constitute a “provincial shutdown.”

“The vast majority of businesses, including those most vital to day-to-day life, will not be affected by this order,” he said.

“We need to do everything to stop the spread of COVID-19 to avoid the overwhelming of our healthcare system,” he said.

The Premier also announced a $304-million “first-stage” COVID-19 Emergency Relief Package, aimed at ramping up containment efforts. The funds will provide more assessment centres, giving more frontline workers added resources and ventilators. Ford says more ventilators have been ordered and 75 new bed spaces in case cases spike. 

While the relief package is currently focused on health care “we’re working on other packages that will support small businesses across the province and the Minister of Finance will likely have an announcement over the next few days,” said Ford, adding “we’re going to spare no expense.”

He added small businesses, freelance workers and independent artists will not be forgotten, but Ontario will need financial support from the federal government.

Ontario Liberal Party leader Steven Del Duca took to Twitter to throw his support behind Ford’s decision.

“I support the government’s decision to declare a state of emergency. We must do everything we can to protect the people of Ontario. These are unprecedented times, but I have confidence that Ontarians will rise to the challenge,” he said in a post.

Toronto mayor John Tory also released a statement in support of the announcement.

“Today, Ontario announced it was declaring a province-wide state of emergency as part of the ongoing response to COVID-19. This declaration will help the province and all cities, including Toronto, protect the health of our residents and further prevent the spread of COVID-19,” he said in a statement. “I hope the seriousness of this declaration will make it clear to every resident how important their personal actions will be in the coming days. If people can stay home, then stay home, and limit your interactions with other people. We know from our medical professionals that engaging in social distancing will protect people’s health and the health of their family and their neighbours.”

For now, malls, office buildings, essential city services and manufacturing facilities will remain open and any future closures will be determined based on the advice of medical professionals, Ford told reporters. “It’s absolutely critical to keep the supply chains open.”

As of March 17, Ontario has reported 177 confirmed cases of COVID19.

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