TORONTO — Ontario is ordering all non-essential businesses to shut down in an effort to help prevent the spread of COVID-19.
Premier Doug Ford made the announcement Monday afternoon about a week after declaring a state of emergency in the province.
The order will come into effect on March 24 at midnight and will remain in place for at least two weeks.
“The next 36 hours will give non-essential businesses the chance to adapt and prepare,” the premier said.
“This was a very tough decision but it is the right decision. This is not the time for half-measures. This decision was not made lightly. The gravity of this order does not escape me. But as I said from day one, we will and must take all the steps to slow the spread of COVID-19.”
A list of non-essential and essential businesses will be released by the government on Tuesday, Ford said.
“The health and safety of every Ontarian must come first and that is why we are taking these important steps. It means food will remain on the shelve. It means Ontarians will still have access to their medications and essential products. It means the power will still stay on and telecommunications will continue to run. But it also means that every Ontarian must do their part.”
Ford stressed that the order does not mean all businesses need to shut down completely, as some may be able to continue operations from outside their facilities. He also noted that the province is looking into enforcement measures for those who don’t comply with the order.
“If they want to break that, well there will be consequences,” he said. “We are all in this together…do the responsible thing and close your shop.”
It is not yet clear if construction sites will be forced to close under the order. Ford said that the decision will be made on Tuesday, adding that if a construction worker feels unsafe, they should leave the site.
“We are making sure we cross our ‘t’s’, dot our ‘i’s’. It’s an extensive list that is essential and it’s a large list that is non-essential. We will be announcing that tomorrow,” he said.
Last week, the provincial government banned the gathering of more than 50 people, including events, parades and services within places of worship until March 31. The province also ordered the closure of all facilities, including those that provide indoor recreation programs, public libraries, theatres, cinemas, concert venues and all bars and restaurants except to provide takeout and delivery services.
The newest announcement comes as Ontario experiences the largest spike in COVID-19 cases to date, bringing the provincial total to more than 500.
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