The Ontario government announced that all child-care centres will be allowed to reopen Friday, under strict guidelines amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Premier Doug Ford made the announcement alongside ministers Stephen Lecce and Christine Elliott at his daily press briefing at Queen’s Park on Tuesday.
“As we prepare to reopen more businesses and services, it is critical that we ensure supports are in place so people can return to work knowing their children will be cared for in a safe and healthy environment,” said Ford.
Lecce said the plan was made in consultation with public health officials.
There will be a limit of 10 in regard to staff and children at a centre, as well as new screening and cleaning protocols.
No visitors will be allowed and toys that are seen to be able to spread the virus will be removed.
Lecce also said that in-home child-care providers will have to follow the new guidelines and face a penalty of $1,000 per child, per day for non-compliance.
All centres will also have to have a plan in place in the case of a coronavirus outbreak.
The Minister of Education said that parents who do not feel comfortable bringing their children back to their daycare centres will not be penalized and will not lose their spot.
“The emergency order remains in place so should a parent not want to put their child back in a centre you will not lose your space and you will not be charged,” Lecce said.
Erin Teichman said she will not be sending her 15-month-old daughter back yet.
“I understand the rationale to open child care because I’m one of those people who can’t go back to work until I get child care, but I think it’s too early,” she said.
“Child care is very touchy feely kind of thing, so if you can’t go somewhere and have someone cut your hair, how am I supposed to feel safe having somebody else comfort my kid, pick them up, give them a hug? They’re toddlers, they need help falling asleep, they need help eating – don’t even get started on going to the bathroom.”
The free child care received by front-line healthcare and emergency workers will end June 26, but Lecce said those workers will still have “first preference.”
Amy O’Neill, who operates Treetop Children’s Centre in Toronto, said there was no notice to the sector.
“I’m in complete shock and disbelief,” said O’Neill.
Ford announced Monday that most Ontario regions outside the Toronto area will be allowed to open more businesses and activities on Friday.
Restaurant patios, hair salons and swimming pools will reopen as the province takes a regional approach to restarting the economy.
The limit on social gatherings will increase from five to 10, but people must still stay two metres away from anyone outside their own household.
Some child-care centres in the province have remained opened throughout the pandemic to provide free service to the families of essential workers.
Full set of protocols centres must follow
- Cohorting ― putting children and staff in groups of 10 or less day over day;
- COVID-19 response plan ― all child care settings will be required to have a plan in place if a child, parent or staff member/provider is exposed to COVID-19;
- Screening ― all staff and children must be screened prior to entry to the child care setting. Anyone feeling unwell must stay home;
- Daily attendance records ― child care settings must keep daily records of all attendees in order to support contact tracing;
- Cleaning ― child care settings must be thoroughly cleaned before opening and frequently thereafter;
- No visitors ― only essential visitors are permitted entry into the child care setting;
- Implementing drop-off and pick-up protocols in a way that facilitates physical distancing.
—With files from The Canadian Press