TORONTO — In an effort to further contain the spread of COVID-19, the Ontario Government is ordering the mandatory closure of all non-essential workplaces, but it is unclear whether or not construction sites will be included on that list.
The announcement was made today (March 23).
The closures will come into effect March 24 at 11:59 p.m. and a full list of businesses that are permitted to stay open will be made available the same day. The closure is expected to be in effect for 14 days with the possibility of extending this order as the situation evolves, stated the province.
Ontario reported 78 new COVID-19 cases today, bringing the provincial total to 503, the largest increase in a day so far.
“This was a tough decision, but the right decision, as this is no time for half measures,” stated Premier Doug Ford.
Businesses that can continue operations with employees working remotely, or through other contingency measures, are being given approximately 36 hours to prepare and adapt, indicates a government release, adding essential services may continue their operations to maintain supply chains and ensure people have access to necessities, including groceries, medicines and other essential products.
When asked whether construction sites will be shut down at a press conference March 23, Ford said “we are making sure we cross our Ts and dot our Is. There is an extensive list that is essential and a large list that is non-essential. We will be announcing that tomorrow.”
He did criticize constructors who permitted unhygienic conditions and stressed that it was not all construction companies.
“I have heard the same stories form construction workers directly,” said Ford. “I have talked to labour, I have talked to construction companies, I have talked to homebuilders. What I have to say to the construction companies, and it’s not all of them by the way, and the sites, it is different for all of them, one size doesn’t fit all, but large construction sites downtown, the pictures I have seen … to have outhouses overflowing, not have sanitary items — get your act together. Take care of front-line construction workers. To have an outhouse overflowing in the picture I saw, it is unacceptable.
He added, “and if they don’t do it, we will do it. We want to work collaboratively with the construction trades, we have a phenomenal relationship with them, but to put their workers, in some cases, not all, in jeopardy by going into an outhouse and seeing it overflowing, not having proper water in outhouses, hand sanitizers, it’s unacceptable.”
Ford also said workers who do not feel safe should “leave the site and don’t come back.”
Some construction will “continue moving forward” Ford said.
“We have to make sure hospital construction, for example Vaughan, we need to get that up and going as soon as possible. It is critical we get those hospitals up and moving ASAP.”
Ford also announced today that Ontario is providing a $200-million funding boost for social services, including shelters, food banks, emergency services, charities and non-profits.
Money will be given to municipalities and social service agencies and will help those organizations hire additional staff and operate using social distancing.
The funding will also go toward an expanded emergency assistance program for people on welfare to help cover food, rent, informal childcare arrangements and other services.
—With files from the Canadian Press