In a statement sent out Monday evening, Premier Doug Ford and Health Minister Christine Elliott recommended the closure of all recreation programs, libraries, private schools, daycares, churches and other faith settings, as well as bars and restaurants, except those that offer take out or delivery.
“Based on advice from Ontario’s Chief Medical Officer of Health, Dr. David Williams, Ontario is responding to the evolving situation by moving forward with new measures to help contain the virus,” the statement said.
In an earlier press conference Monday, Williams recommended that all bars and restaurants close — other than takeout and delivery operations — and people avoid gatherings of more than 50 people.
“These closures would be in line with the updated guidance to avoid large gatherings of over 50 people,” the statement read.
“We recognize that these measures will significantly impact the lives of many Ontarians. However, as the number of cases in Ontario continues to grow, we must heed the advice of our public health experts and take decisive action to protect the health and safety of the public, our government’s top priority.”
The new recommendations come after Ford, joined by some ministers and Williams, held a press conference Monday morning and, at the time, did not recommend the expanded closures.
When asked if the government was considering ordering the closure of non-essential businesses as has been done in other parts of the world, Ford said the situation was continuing to evolve and he was continuing to get information from Williams.
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“Once the chief medical officer tells us that we need to shut it down, we’ll shut it down,” Ford said.
Global News reached out to Ford and Elliott’s office Monday evening and asked if there would be penalties for businesses that do not follow the recommendations.
A spokesperson from Minister Elliott’s office said, “This is not an order, but rather a strong recommendation from Dr. Williams in order to contain the spread of this new virus to protect the health and well-being of all Ontarians.”
“It is imperative that we take steps now and take steps together to reduce opportunities for transmission,” Williams said in a statement.
“By working together, we can make a difference in this outbreak and protect those among us who are most vulnerable to COVID-19.”
Toronto Public Health ordered the closure of restaurants and bars — except for takeout and delivery — as well as nightclubs and theatres in the city on Monday, and warned that businesses that don’t comply could face a penalty of up to $25,000.
Peel Region Public Health also recommended the same closures.
Williams said that all employers should allow employees to work from home when possible. For workplaces where that isn’t possible, Williams said employers should “use their judgement to sustain operations in a manner that maintains social distancing.”
Meanwhile, Ontario reported 32 new cases of novel coronavirus on Monday, bringing the provincial total to 177.
Some of the cases are believed to be as a result of community transmission, officials said.
Five of the 177 have been resolved.