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Coronavirus: Ontario ‘adjusting the list’ of essential businesses amid calls for expanded closures

Coronavirus outbreak: Ford says some construction sites shut down due to safety reasons
WATCH ABOVE: Ontario Premier Doug Ford said on Wednesday the province has shut down three construction sites and sent out 160 orders to comply with safety measures, adding the government would not hesitate to shut down more sites.

Ontario Premier Doug Ford says the province is in the process of “adjusting the list” of essential workplaces that have been allowed to stay operational during the coronavirus pandemic.

Ford made the remarks during a press conference Wednesday afternoon, amid calls for more closures in the province in a bid to curb the spread of COVID-19.

“That’s being reviewed absolutely every day,” Ford said.

“We’re going to be adjusting that list. You’ll hear that in the next day or so.”

READ MORE: Ontario reports 426 new coronavirus cases, total at 2,392 and 37 deaths

Ford said his government is going to do “everything [they] can to reduce that list.”

Opposition NDP Leader Andrea Horwarth was the latest person to call for there to be a review.

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She penned a letter to the premier on Wednesday.

“I am writing to request a review of the industries and businesses currently exempted from the emergency management orders to cease operation,” Horwath wrote.

“In particular, I would like you to review the blanket exemption for construction, an industry in which it’s often impossible to practice safe distancing.

“Protecting workers’ health and safety, and ensuring we’re doing every practical thing possible to stop the spread of COVID-19, must be Ontario’s priority right now.”

READ MORE: Coronavirus: Ontario, municipalities step up legal measures in fight against COVID-19

Construction sites remaining operational has been especially controversial, with some construction groups and workers calling for the immediate suspension of work on all sites due to concerns about unsanitary conditions.

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Ford has said there are inspectors investigating conditions at sites throughout the province, and added that some projects, like completing homes, are necessary. He has also said that most unions and workers want to continue with projects, and said any worker who feels unsafe should leave their site.

The Residential Construction Council of Ontario has repeatedly said safety is the industry’s “top priority” and also reiterated Ford’s comments that workers can leave sites if they feel they are unsafe.

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Meanwhile, in Toronto Wednesday morning, the city’s medical officer of health also called for a shortened list of workplaces deemed essential.

“It’s not within my jurisdiction as the local medical officer of health to make determinations as to what businesses remain open,” Dr. Eileen de Villa said.

“But I assure you we are working here at the city to actively engage our provincial partners to see what can be done to reduce the number of open workplaces and businesses so as to reduce virus spread, while at the same time meeting essential needs.”

READ MORE: Coronavirus: Toronto officials increase health measures amid worsening pandemic

Ford said there are a lot of elements to maintaining a supply chain, and the government wants to ensure there are no interruptions.

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“The supply chain is long when it comes to making sure we have food in the retail grocery chains,” he said.

“It’s absolutely critical we keep that supply chain going. But we’re going through it as we speak.”

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