Ford announces mandatory closure of all non-essential businesses
Codi Wilson and Joshua Freeman, CP24.com
Published Monday, March 23, 2020 7:37AM EDT
Last Updated Tuesday, March 24, 2020 11:01AM EDT
Premier Doug Ford is ordering all non-essential businesses to close their doors this week in an effort to slow the spread of COVID-19.
The order, which will come into effect at 11:59 p.m. on Tuesday, will remain in place for 14 days but Ford said the province is prepared to extend it "if necessary."
The province released a detailed list Monday night outlining which businesses will be allowed to stay open.
The list of businesses that will be allowed to stay open includes liquor stores, gas stations, hardware stores, pharmacies, office supply stores, taxis, hotels, vets and pet stores, IT infrastructure businesses and a slew of others.
The province confirmed earlier Monday that LCBO and Beer Stores will remain open.
"(The order) means food will remain on the shelves. 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," Ford told reporters at Queen's Park on Monday afternoon.
He said the next 36 hours will give businesses ordered to close a chance to "adapt and prepare."
"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," he said.
Ford said while the province is looking at enforcement measures for those who don’t comply with the order, resources in the province are "scarce."
"I think our resources should be put on health care," he said, acknowledging that it would be impossible to go door-to-door to make sure businesses are in compliance.
He urged companies to “do the responsible thing” and “follow the rules.”
“If they want to break that well there will be consequences but we don’t want to run that way,” he said. “We are all in this together. Do the responsible thing and close your shop.”
Ford said the order does not mean all non-essential businesses need to stop operating.
"It doesn’t mean closing business. It means… we don’t want people in the facility," Ford said, adding that many companies have taken this step already.
The list of businesses allowed to stay open also includes a wide variety of construction projects.
Asked earlier in the day about whether construction companies will be forced to shut down operations, Ford did not give a clear answer.
He went on to say that he has heard reports of unsanitary working conditions at some constructions sites, a situation he called "unacceptable."
"They have outhouses overflowing," Ford said. "Get your act together. Take care of your frontline construction workers."
In a statement to CP24 Monday night, the Residential Construction Council of Ontario (RESCO) said that they are “thankful” that construction projects have been added to the list.
“Construction is a core industry critical to the Ontario economy which is suffering from infrastructure, transit and housing deficits,” RESCO President Richard Lyall said. “It will be critical for the industry to continue to implement the highest safety standards on job sites.”
'Go directly home and stay in your house'
Ford's announcement Tuesday comes as the number of COVID-19 cases continues to surge in the province.
Ontario confirmed 78 new cases of the virus on Monday morning, bringing the total number to 503 including six deaths and eight recoveries.
During Monday's news conference, Ford also expressed concerns over the behaviour of people returning to the country from abroad.
"People coming back, the snowbirds and people abroad… they are going right into the stores. They are going into the retail stores to get food. I can't stress it enough. It is unacceptable," the premier said, adding that people should "go directly home and stay in your house."
"If you are coming from the airport, do not, I repeat, do not stop at a store. Go directly home and self-isolate for 14 days...The rules in Florida are not the rules here in Ontario."