The Province of Ontario announced further closures, banning more non-essential businesses and workplaces including non-essential construction, to stop the spread of COVID-19.
On Friday, Premier Doug Ford said that all businesses not covered by the updated Emergency Order will close effectively on Saturday, April 4, 2020 at 11:59 p.m.
The closure will be in effect for 14 days, with the possibility of an extension as the situation evolves.
Teleworking, online commerce and other innovative ways of working remotely are permitted at all times and are “strongly encouraged for all businesses.”
The province said that all supply chains necessary for the production of vital food and healthcare supplies are being protected and remain intact.
“We are facing a critical moment in the fight against COVID-19 and we must do everything in our power to keep everyone safe and healthy and prevent our health care system from being overwhelmed,” Ford said.
“Everyone must do their part to stop the spread and flatten the curve. If you are not an essential business, you need to close your doors, work from home if possible and play a role to help contain this outbreak. This is a matter of life and death.”
The premier said that all new residential construction sites will stop and if such closures are not taken seriously the government “will not hesitate to shut down more.”
“We have been coming down hard on inspection,” Ford said.
The province has added 60 new inspectors with hundreds of enforcement officers patrolling every day. So far, there have been 583 inspections with five construction sites shut down.
The updated list will direct additional businesses to close and restricts specified businesses to providing services by alternate methods such as curb side pick up and delivery, except in exceptional circumstances.
This includes stores that sell hardware products, vehicle parts and supplies, pet and animal supplies, office supplies and computer products and repairs and safety supplies.
The updated essential businesses list can be found here.
The increased measures come after Ontario’s coronavirus modelling and projection numbers were announced by top health officials.
Prior to the premier’s press conference, Ontario health officials said that deaths for the entirety of the COVID-19 pandemic, with the existing measures in place, could be anywhere from 3,000 to 15,000.
Dr. Peter Donnelly, President and CEO of Public Health Ontario said that if Ontario had no measures put in place over the entirety of the pandemic, there would be 100,000 deaths.
He also said the pandemic may last for 18 months to two years, as there could be a potential second wave of the virus.
For the month of April, deaths are projected to be 1,600 in the province. If measures had not been in place there may have been 6,000 deaths.
“These numbers are stark and they’re sobering,” Ford said. “These numbers tell a story on Ontario’s fight against COVID-19.”
He added that the forecasts are projections and that can change with the public and government’s actions.
“The early chapters of our story have already been written and there are some things that are out of anybody’s hands,” said Ford during his press conference. “The end is up to us.”
With warmer weather approaching, Ford asked, “Is a life worth a picnic in a park? Is a life worth going to a beach?”
“We need to listen to what the data tells us,” he said. “We must take these warnings seriously.”
Dr. Donnelly did mention that with enhanced physical distancing measures and closures the province could see 200 deaths with full future intervention.
The immediate focus is for enhanced capacity for case and contact tracing, which is currently underway.
There is also increased testing with a focus on long-term care, retirement homes and other congregate settings.
The health officials long-term goals and focus include: reducing the number and types of essential workplaces; enhance enforcement and fines for non-compliance; expand on physical distancing measures, especially in retail settings; enhanced support for elderly, homeless and other vulnerable communities; consider entry restrictions for Indigenous communities; using alerts to reinforce isolation and additional public education.
The government is also implementing additional measures to protect frontline workers in essential businesses by adding 60 more special consultants and officers and doubling the number of phone agents at its Health and Safety Call Centre to 50 to make it easier for workers to report safety concerns.