Ontario extended its state of emergency for another four weeks on Tuesday, as Premier Doug Ford pledged to move more resources to the province’s hard-hit long-term care homes.
Ford said the fight against COVID-19 is not over and it’s too soon to lift restrictions imposed during the pandemic, saying Ontario still faces a “clear and present danger.”
“As long as COVID-19 continues to spread; as long as our seniors and those most vulnerable are at risk _ Ontario must remain in the position to take any and all actions necessary to fight this virus,” the premier said.
To that end, Ford said his government would issue a new order Tuesday night deploying more staff to long-term care homes. There are currently more than 90 outbreaks in such facilities across the province.
The order will also make it mandatory that those workers only report to one facility each, Ford said _ something several health-care worker unions have been requesting for weeks.
The legislature extended the state of emergency in the province Tuesday afternoon during a brief session at Queen’s Park.
The continued order will see non-essential businesses and child-care centres closed for another 28 days.
Ford also acknowledged the province’s schools won’t re-open in early May as planned, promising a more detailed update from the education minister in the coming days.
Twenty-eight legislators were present at Tuesday’s session, including 14 members of the Progressive Conservative government, eight New Democrats, two Liberals, two Independent members and the house Speaker.
The government also passed legislation to change some regulations for school boards, post-secondary institutions and municipalities during the pandemic.
NDP Leader Andrea Horwath said her party would support the Progressive Conservative government’s bill to extend the state of emergency and would help speed its passage.
However, she urged the Tories to increase supports for people in financial need who aren’t eligible for federal income support.
“The fact is, people were hoping the legislation would rescue them from sleepless nights and payments they just can’t afford,” she said. “It doesn’t. If Ontario doesn’t do more to help, some people will go hungry.”
Horwath also urged to boost wages for long-term care workers.
“We have to pay them well enough so that they don’t need to moonlight at a second facility,” she said.
Meanwhile, Ontario reported 483 new COVID-19 cases Tuesday and 43 new deaths.
That brings the province to a total of 7,953 cases, including 334 deaths and 3,568 cases that have been resolved.
Tuesday’s numbers represented an increase of 6.5 per cent over Monday’s total, continuing a relatively low growth rate over the past several days.
The province has said it will do 8,000 tests daily by Wednesday, but just under 5,000 were completed in the last 24 hours.
Ford expressed frustration last week that Ontario has been testing for COVID-19 well below its capacity of 13,000 a day.