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Coronavirus: Ottawa’s state of emergency to remain in effect until end of June

The city of Ottawa has announced they will be extending emergency closures in the capital until the end of June.
The city of Ottawa has announced they will be extending emergency closures in the capital until the end of June. Nick Westoll / File / Global News

The city of Ottawa announced Monday that it would be prolonging their state of emergency until the end of June due to the novel coronavirus pandemic, leading to the temporary layoffs of thousands of municipal employees.

This decision would also extend closures of many municipal services, and prohibit large gatherings in the city until June 30.

The city’s state of emergency was first called March 25, but on Monday, in a digital press conference, Mayor Jim Watson announced the city was bleeding money due to limited services.

READ MORE: ‘Uncharted waters’: Ottawa mayor declares state of emergency over coronavirus

According to Watson, the city is currently losing an estimated $1 million a day in revenue due to the current state of emergency. In order to mitigate those losses, Watson said 4,280 part-time municipal staff in the region will be put on temporary “emergency leave.”

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This is meant to save the city about $2.7 million a month.

The emergency leave designation would allow municipal part-time workers to apply for federal funding over the next several weeks but also maintain their employment with the city, despite not working or being paid.

“This is not the action we wanted to take for dedicated employees,” Watson said.

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“I want to reassure everyone staff still have access to city’s employment assistance program… I can also assure you that this is only a temporary measure.”

The mayor also noted that this decision will lead to the cancellation of all festivals and city-planned activities scheduled before June 30, which will greatly affect the city’s tourism industry.

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“I know this a very difficult decision for local festivals and our tourism industry, but at least this provides some degree of certainty,” Watson said.

As for Canada Day celebrations, which are organized by the federal government, Watson said he thinks it would be “a big challenge” to have those activities take place July 1.

Nevertheless, he noted it’s unclear to know where the city, the province or the country will be at in relation to COVID-19 by that time.

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“We will constantly be reviewing the situation to determine what is best for the health of our residents,” Watson said.

City manager Steve Kanellakos announced a list of continued closures until June 30, including the following municipal services:

  • All city recreation facilities
  • Parks and playgrounds
  • Libraries and book mobiles
  • Ottawa farmer’s markets
  • City programs including swimming, skating and fitness programs
  • All city of Ottawa client services
  • Licenced childcare centres

Kanellakos said the city will continue to offer emergency services until June 30.

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Some still not taking social distancing seriously

Despite constant messaging and new provincial regulations not to gather in groups larger than five people, Watson noted some have not been adhering to social distancing rules in the city.

Watson said municipal bylaw officers have had to attend a bar and a barbershop that were continuing to operate.

Over the weekend, despite all parks being closed to the public, Watson said Ottawa bylaw officers attended over 520 calls about people disobeying social distancing rules.

Of those calls, 43 tickets were issued.

READ MORE: REALITY CHECK — Police say they aren’t pulling over cars for coronavirus fines

One person, Watson said, was issued two tickets after a bylaw officer told him to leave a park, and he became belligerent and refused. The man was forced to pay $2,010 in total for his fines.

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The mayor also noted that he saw one instance of a woman ripping the yellow caution tape off playgrounds to allow her children to play, despite playgrounds being closed.

Watson said that bylaw officers are practicing discretion for each case, and that people are allowed to walk through parks, but are simply not allowed to loiter.

As of Monday afternoon, the city has a total of 370 cases of COVID-19, with six people dying as a result of the virus.