As of Monday, there are 96 confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus in Toronto (up from 41 on Friday). Ontario’s Ministry of Health has confirmed 172 cases of coronavirus in the province and is investigating 1,537 people (8,464 have been found negative).
The situation is serious, and public health officials are recommending people stay home to help “flatten the curve” in order to prevent significant strain on the country’s health care system. Heavily impacted countries have already raised concerns about a lack of ventilators to treat the more serious cases of coronavirus. In addition to self-isolation, officials are encouraging people to employ social distancing tactics whenever possible, to continue to wash your hands regularly, and avoid touching your face.
To keep you informed as the situation develops, we will continue to bring you a daily roundup of coronavirus updates from across Toronto and the country.
Mayor Tory launches economic task force in Toronto
Toronto mayor John Tory is setting up a task force to help independent businesses survive and recover from the current crisis. He is said to be in conference call meetings with industry officials to suss out how the city can help this week, starting with the hospitality and film sectors.
As we navigate unprecedented times, we must take unprecedented action to help our residents & our economy now & in the future. That’s why I am launching an Economic Support & Recovery Task Force to help protect Toronto’s economic success in the wake of the #COVIDー19 pandemic. pic.twitter.com/ncMaTQ0vdL
— John Tory (@JohnTory) March 16, 2020
Ontario aims to protect workers
Premier Doug Ford’s Progressive Conservative government has drafted legislation that aims to protect the financial situation of workers impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. The proposed legislation would, if passed, “provide job-protected leave to employees in isolation or quarantine due to COVID-19, or those who need to be away from work to care for children because of school or daycare closures.”
“Mothers and fathers who need to care for children or dependants shouldn’t have to worry about losing their job,” said Monte McNaughton, Minister of Labour, Training and Skills Development. “The same goes for people who receive medical or public health advice and are required to take precautions as a result.”
According to the press release, the measures would be retroactive to Jan. 25, 2020, the date that the first presumptive COVID-19 case was confirmed in Ontario.
— Doug Ford (@fordnation) March 16, 2020
Trudeau announces billion-dollar response fund to COVID-19
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau told the country the government has “decided to take increasingly aggressive steps to keep you and your family safe,” at a press conference outside his home earlier today.
“We will make 10 billion dollars available in additional support for Canadian businesses. This is a tool that has worked before in difficult circumstances and we’re confident it will work again,” said Trudeau.
In addition to a billion-dollar response fund, Trudeau spoke of new travel restrictions and precautions being deployed across the country. “Public health authorities have conducted 25,000 tests to-date and their work continues,” he added. To ensure more Canadians can have access to the latest information on COVID-19, Health Canada will be holding a daily update, starting at noon on Tuesday.
Pearson one of four airports accepting international flights
Only four Canadian airports will be accepting international flights starting Wed., March 18: Toronto Pearson Airport, Montréal-Pierre Elliott Trudeau, Vancouver International Airport and Calgary International Airport. At this time, domestic flights and flights coming from the U.S., Mexico, or the Caribbean will not be affected. The restrictions will not apply to commerce or trade. “I know these measures are far-reaching, they are exceptional circumstances, calling for exceptional measures,” said Trudeau during today’s press conference. “These measures will help save lives,” he added.
Canada bans non-citizens and symptomatic travellers
“We will be denying entry to Canada to people who are not Canadian citizens or permanent residents,” the Prime Minister said earlier today. “This measure will carve out some designated exceptions, including air crews, diplomats, immediate family members of Canadian citizens and at this time, U.S. citizens.”
According to Trudeau, a health assessment will also be conducted on anyone travelling into Canada and only asymptomatic people will be allowed entry. “This means anyone who has symptoms, will not be able to come to Canada,” he said. However, Trudeau insisted the government will not leave Canadians unsupported and financial assistance will be provided to those abroad to cover their basic needs while they wait to come back to Canada.
Any non-essential travel outside of Canada is being strongly discouraged by public health officials. Also, people returning to Canada are being asked to self-isolate for 14 days.
OFFICIAL ADVICE TO CANADIANS ABROAD:
We recommend that Canadian travellers return to Canada via commercial means while they remain available. pic.twitter.com/f8DC5goS3n
— François-Philippe Champagne (FPC) 🇨🇦 (@FP_Champagne) March 14, 2020
Ontario limits coronavirus testing
Ontario is placing further restrictions on COVID-19 testing, as the province begins to struggle to keep up with demand.
“There is an increased global demand for viral nasopharyngeal swabs due to COVID-19. In an effort to ensure swabs are available where most needed, the Public Health Laboratory is limiting the volume of swabs supplied,” Public Health Ontario (PHO) said in a statement. If you are exhibiting symptoms, PHO asks that you take their self-assessment before visiting a COVID-19 assessment centre.
This map shows the available COVID-19 test centres across the GTA:
Volunteers help vulnerable seniors
Groups of volunteers across Toronto are helping vulnerable seniors get the necessary prescriptions, groceries and essentials they need. Venturing into a crowded grocery store can be a difficult and potentially dangerous undertaking for seniors or anyone with underlying health conditions. Which is why groups like OpenLab are stepping up in this time of need. Many good samaritans are also offering their services in local neighbourhoods. Check community Facebook pages, such as Leaside Community or Hillcrest Village, to connect with helpers in your area.
We’re looking for volunteers join a special team to assist seniors in Toronto Community Housing buildings during social distancing. Read more in @JoshMatlow’s newsletter. #verticalaging. https://t.co/Q5ttjSSBvg
— OpenLab (@UHNOpenLab) March 14, 2020
Toronto restaurants start to close
Many restaurateurs across Toronto are making the difficult choice to temporarily shut down amidst the COVID-19 outbreak.
On Sunday afternoon, Toronto restaurateur and celebrated author Jen Agg took to social media to express her reasons for shutting down all her locations (Grey Gardens, Bar Vendetta, Le Swan, Rhum Corner).
Late Monday afternoon, the city’s medical officer of health, Dr. Eileen de Villa, recommended bars and restaurants close down. The recommendations came in light of new evidence regarding the “community transmission” of COVID-19.
De Villa is encouraging bars and restaurants to stick to take-out and delivery service no later than midnight. She also “strongly recommended” night clubs, movie theatres and concert venues close their doors as soon as possible. If businesses choose not to comply, they risk being subject to a daily fine of $25,000.
Government pledges to support Indigenous communities
According to Trudeau, the COVID-19 response fund also includes support for Indigenous communities. “On Friday, I spoke with First Nations, Inuit and Métis Nation leaders to discuss the work we’re doing together on preparedness and mitigation efforts,” Trudeau said. “We’re making sure that everyone, no matter where they live, is prepared,” he added.
— GCIndigenous (@GCIndigenous) March 15, 2020
Toronto allows 24-hour delivery
The City of Toronto has revised its noise bylaw to allow for 24-hour retail deliveries in an effort to keep grocery stores fully stocked.
“We are taking this action to help Toronto businesses get deliveries and continue to stock their shelves with essential goods for our residents,” said Mayor John Tory. “By exempting retail businesses from the city’s noise bylaw right now, we will ensure that retailers can receive deliveries 24 hours of a day, seven days a week. This action is part of the city’s ongoing response to the COVID-19 pandemic and my focus on protecting the people of Toronto, including our most vulnerable residents, and helping businesses.”
#CityOfTO takes action to enable 24-hour retail deliveries. This will ensure retailers can receive deliveries 24 hours of a day, seven days a week to ensure essential goods remain in stock. News release: https://t.co/FIsDrYOhYn
— City of Toronto (@cityoftoronto) March 16, 2020