“This morning, I have declared a state of emergency in the province of Ontario,” Ford told reporters at Queen’s Park on Tuesday.
“We are facing an unprecedented time in our history.”
However, Ford said this is not a provincial shutdown.
“The vast majority of businesses, including those most vital for day-to-day life, will not be affected by this order,” he said. “Essential services and essential needs will be available to every individual and families.”
Ford said grocery stores, convenience stores, pharmacies, manufacturing facilities, public transit, important public services, construction sites and office buildings will all continue to operate.
“Right now, we need to do everything we can to slow the spread of COVID-19 in order to avoid overwhelming our health-care system,” Ford added.
The province is using the Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act.
On Monday, the premier expanded the province’s recommended closures to include all recreation programs, libraries, private schools, daycares, churches and other faith settings, as well as bars and restaurants, except those that offer takeout or delivery.
This order is now effective immediately, Ford said.
According to the province, as a result of this declaration and its associated orders, the following establishments are legally required to close immediately:
- All facilities providing indoor recreational programs.
- All public libraries.
- All private schools as defined in the Education Act.
- All licensed child care centres.
- All bars and restaurants, except to the extent that such facilities provide takeout food and delivery.
- All theatres including those offering live performances of music, dance, and other art forms, as well as cinemas that show movies.
- Concert venues.
The government said these orders were approved by the Lieutenant Governor in Council and will remain in place until March 31, 2020.
Ford said that at the advice of Ontario’s chief medical officer of health, Dr. David Williams, the closures are meant to avoid social gatherings of more than 50 people.
“This decision was not made lightly,” Ford said.
The premier also announced the first stage of the province’s COVID-19 emergency relief package, which will include $300 million to support the fight against the virus.
“We are going to bring 75 more critical beds online, 500 post-acute care beds and help hospitals set up 25 more COVID-19 assessment centres,” Ford said. “We’re backing up our front-line public health workers with more resources for monitoring and testing. We are purchasing more personal protective equipment like masks, gloves, surgical gowns for nurses doctors and personal support workers as well as more ventilators.”