Ontario Premier Doug Ford has extended all emergency orders that have been put in place to-date under s.7.0.2 (4) of theEmergency Management and Civil Protection Actuntil May 6, 2020.  

The emergency order extension includes the continued closure of outdoor amenities in parks and recreational areas, non-essential workplaces, public places and bars and restaurants, along with restrictions on social gatherings and limiting staff from working in more than one retirement home or long-term care home.  

The Ontario government currently has the authority to extend any emergency orders pertaining to COVID-19 until May 12, 2020. Per the Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act, the government will have to recall the legislature to extend the period of emergency for an additional 28 days, the maximum extension period permitted by law. The Ontario Legislature is scheduled to reconvene on May 12, 2020, presumably for this purpose.   

Today’s extension comes on the heels of the updated numbers coming in from the province, particularly its long-term care homes. With daily tests hitting 10,000 tests performed, the province recorded a new daily high of 634 cases. As outlined by public health officials earlier this week, a continuing trend of falling percentage increases in new cases and hospitalizations suggests that social distancing measures are succeeding in slowing community spread. At the same time, the situation in Ontario’s long-term care homes is stark and sobering. With 516 deaths (up from 447 yesterday, April 22) and 132 outbreaks (up from 127 yesterday) in these facilities, long-term care now represents 72 per cent of all COVID-19 deaths in Ontario.    

Facing growing alarm over the spread of COVID-19 in these vulnerable settings – a situation that has touched the Premier’s family directly – the Ontario government announced new measures to protect the vulnerable during the COVID-19 pandemic. Todd Smith, Minister of Children, Community and Social Services, provided details on the province’s new COVID-19 Action Plan for Vulnerable People, building upon previous efforts to protect congregated residential settings, including long-term care facilities, homes that serve those with developmental disabilities, shelters for survivors of domestic violence and human trafficking, homeless shelters, children and youth residential centres, and Indigenous communities.  

Enhanced measures that will be implemented in the coming days include:  

        • Increased screening of visitors, staff and residents. 
        • Mandating masks in high-risk settings. 
        • Providing additional personal protective equipment and training to use it. 
        • Limiting staff from working at more than one congregate care facility in certain high-risk settings. 
        • More training and education on how to address an outbreak. 
        • Maintaining staffing levels and managing staff shortages. 

This follows yesterday’s announcement that the Ontario government had requested support from the Canadian Forces and the Public Health Agency of Canada to further assist in its response to the growing crisis in long-term care facilities. Specific details are still being arranged, including what Federal resources will be deployed and to which facilities. 

The Ontario government has stressed that it remains premature to discuss plans to relax restrictions on day-to-day economic activity throughout the province, a step that the less-impacted Saskatchewan government unveiled today. However, the government remains flexible in trying to address emerging issues affecting specific sectors of the economy as they emerge.   

Particular attention is being given to seasonal businesses that are heavily dependent on time-limited commercial activities, especially if they are able to conduct business with social distancing measures in place. Following media coverage on the risk faced by garden centres and nurseries prohibited from opening, Premier Ford committed today that they will be permitted to open to the public subject to specific requirements to be released in the coming day.  

For more information, including all of our ongoing updates on the COVID-19 pandemic, please visit our COVID-19 resource page