TORONTO—Ontario Premier Doug Ford declared a state of emergency Tuesday in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, ordering the closure of bars, restaurants, theatres, libraries, and banning public events with over 50 people.
“We’re facing an unprecedented time in our history,” Ford said. “This was a decision that was not made lightly.”
The declaration’s intent is to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus and avoid overwhelming the health-care system, Ford said.
Effective immediately, the province ordered the closure of all facilities providing indoor recreation programs, all public libraries, all private schools, all licensed childcare centres, all theatres, cinemas, and concert venues, and all bars and restaurants except to provide takeout food and delivery.
The order also bans public events of over 50 people, including parades, events and services within places of worship. It is in place until March 31.
Essential services such as grocery stores will continue to operate, Ford said.
“I want to be very clear about what this means and what this doesn’t mean: This is not a provincial shutdown,” Ford said. “The vast majority of businesses, including those most vital to day-to-day life will not be affected by this order.”
Ontario has set aside a $100-million contingency fund, and is receiving $200 million from the federal government. That money is all being directed to health-care resources, Ford said, and a provincial support package for businesses is in the works.
Ontario has reported a total of 177 cases of COVID-19, though that number is set to be updated later Tuesday morning.