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Coronavirus pandemic forces Ontario to declare state of emergency

Last Updated Mar 17, 2020 at 7:43 am PDT

FILE - Ontario Premier Doug Ford speaks to the media following a cabinet shuffle at Queen's Park in Toronto on Thursday, June 20, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/ Tijana Martin

Ontario has declared a state of emergency amid the COVID-19 outbreak

The order bans public events of more than 50 people, including parades, events and services within places of worship

The state of emergency will be in effect until March 31; Doug Ford stresses this is not a provincial shut down

TORONTO – Ontario Premier Doug Ford has declared a state of emergency in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

He said Tuesday this is an unprecedented time in our history and that the decision was not made lightly.

Ford said the order bans public events of more than 50 people, including parades, events and services within places of worship until March 31.

Effective immediately, the province has ordered the closure of all facilities providing indoor recreation programs, all public libraries, all private schools, all licensed childcare centres, all theatres, cinemas and concert venues, and all bars and restaurants except to provide takeout food and delivery.

At this point, shopping malls are not included, however, many retailers have made the decision to shut down anyways.

Ford stressed this was not a provincial shut down and that the majority of businesses won’t be affected by the order.

Essential services such as grocery stores, pharmacies and public transit will continue to operate.

Toronto Mayor John Tory said in a statement he was fully supportive of the state of emergency declaration and thanked the province for taking decisive action.

“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,” read Tory’s statement. “We will continue to follow the advice of our public health professionals to make sure we are doing everything possible to confront the COVID-19 pandemic and protect our residents and our city.”

Brampton Mayor Patrick Brown called the state of emergency “the right call,” but urged the government to include shopping malls in the list of closures.

Ford also announced $300 million to help support healthcare workers and services across Ontario to help those most vulnerable. The money will fund at least 75 more critical hospital beds, 500 post-acute beds and at least 25 more assessment centres.

As for when he thinks Ontarians will be able to get back to normal life, Ford said he’s going to be looking to Ontario Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. David Williams for guidance and they’re doing what they can to flatten the curve.

When asked why wasn’t this done earlier than Tuesday, Dr. Williams said, “We were in consultation with our federal counterparts … things have been changing very fluidly,” and that they are trying to be consistent with counter parts in other provinces.

Ford said, “This is changing hour-by-hour, day-by-day.”

The premier also promised small businesses, freelance workers and independent artists will not be forgotten, but the federal government must also provide resources.

Ontario has recorded more than 170 cases of COVID-19 since the outbreak began.