The provincial government says it is allowing 24-hour construction on essential projects in response to the COVID-19 outbreak.  

Projects that meet the criteria include hospitals, hospital expansions and COVID-19 assessment centres.

In a news release Wednesday, the province said construction of these projects will be allowed to continue “any time of the night or day” in order to accelerate the province’s response to the pandemic.

"During this escalating crisis, we are taking immediate steps to ensure the necessary infrastructure is in place, particularly to properly care for those with severe COVID-19 symptoms and other patients who require critical care," Premier Doug Ford said in a statement.

"That's why we're extending construction hours to allow us to build essential infrastructure faster, while ensuring construction workers can practice physical distancing on work sites to stay safe and healthy."

The province said that the new measure will temporarily overrule local noise bylaws that would normally limit construction.  

At the same time the government is vowing to make sure that construction sites are safe for workers.  

"Temporarily limiting noise bylaws to extend the hours for construction work will help make it possible to stagger shifts and have fewer workers on site at any given time so they can practice physical distancing," Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing Steve Clark said in a statement.

The province has faced criticism for allowing many construction sites to remain open during the pandemic. Last week the government announced that a more limited number of sites would be allowed to remain open, including key health care projects, transportation projects and residential construction that was already underway.

There has also been criticism about the conditions at some construction sites, with some workers citing a lack of proper washing facilities, poor social distancing measures and employers who have not been lenient about sick leave.

The province said Wednesday that it has sent out guidelines for employers, deployed inspectors and specialists to check conditions and doubled the number of lines at Ontario's Health and Safety Call Centre in a bid to keep work sites safe.

The province is also calling on recently retired inspectors to consider returning to their positions if they are able to do so.  

 It’s not immediately clear how many sites around the GTA will be affected by the extended hours.