Three more COVID-19 cases confirmed in Ottawa, bringing city’s total to 24
Premier Doug Ford announces closure of all non-essential businesses
Ford said schools will not reopen even after the current three-week shutdown that began at the beginning of March Break
Ontario’s total jumps 503, with eight deaths
Gatineau Park is closing as of 9 p.m. Monday
“It’s not the time to have friends or family over to visit,” says Dr. Vera Etches of Ottawa Public Health
Etches said the health unit is looking at several ways to monitor people’s compliance with social distancing and self-isolation. One “potential source” is tracking cellphone data
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said enough is enough when it comes to people flouting social distancing guidelines: “Go home and stay home”
The federal government will invest $192 million in companies researching a vaccine for the virus
Canada now has almost 1,500 confirmed cases of the disease and 20 deaths
New flights announced to bring home Canadians stranded overseas
Quebec is closing all non-essential businesses and services until April 13
Tokyo Olympics postponed to 2021
Premier Doug Ford , Christine Elliott, Deputy Premier and Minister of Health, and Rod Phillips, Minister of Finance update about the state of emergency amid coronavirus pandemic on Wednesday March 18, 2020.VERONICA HENRI/ Veronica Henri/Toronto Sun
Premier Doug Ford ordered all non-essential business to close beginning Tuesday and warned that schools will not reopen as anticipated on April 6 as the province races to contain the spread of COVID-19.
Speaking in Toronto, Ford said only grocery stores, pharmacies, takeout and delivery restaurants, essential manufacturing industries and supply chain suppliers will be allowed to remain open. The province’s liquor stores will also remain open, according to a report from the Toronto Star. A full list of businesses allowed to stay open will be released Tuesday, he said.
“This is not the time for half measures. This decision was not made lightly. And the gravity of this order does not escape me,” Ford said. The closures will last for a 14-day period, but Ford said the ban could extend beyond then.
When asked whether construction sites would need to close, Ford said more clarity would be provided Tuesday. But he offered a message to all construction workers: “You don’t feel safe? … Leave the site and don’t come back.”
Ford said Ontarians will “have to police ourselves” when it comes to enforcing the closure of non-essential businesses, and warned that “there will be consequences” for those that break the rules.
“But we dont want to run that way. We’re all in this together. It’s absolutely critical that people be listening to the orders,” he said.
Policing partners will be called upon “if and when it is necessary,” added Ontario’s solicitor general Sylvia Jones.
Ford also had bad news for parents, saying schools will not reopen even after the current three-week shutdown that began at the beginning of March Break.
“Our No. 1 priority is to protect our children,” Ford said. “The kids won’t be going back to school on April 6.”
Ford said more information will come from Education Minister Stephen Lecce about when school will resume and how students will be graded for the current year.
“The reality is April 6 is not realistic right now. We are in a state of emergency.”
The premier also pleaded with people to stay home in social isolation. “If you can, please stay home. Do not leave home unless absolutely necessary. To all the snowbirds returning home, you must self-isolate. I repeat: You must self-isolate. Some people will ask why. The answer is obvious. We must get ahead of this virus.”
Ford’s announcement came as three more cases of COVID-19 have been confirmed in Ottawa as Ontario added 78 to its number of confirmed cases Monday morning, bringing the province’s total to 503.
Cots set up in a former classroom, now a dormitory, as Mayor Jim Watson tours the isolation centre for vulnerable residents, ahead of its opening on Monday, with Wendy Muckle, Executive director of Ottawa Inner City Health, and members of the Human Needs Taskforce.WAYNE CUDDINGTON/POSTMEDIA
The confirmed Ottawa cases include a male in his 50s who is now in hospital. The source of his infection is still under investigation. A woman in her 50s has also been infected due to “close contact” and a female under the age of 18 was infected while travelling. Both are now in self isolation.
A woman in her 60s from Eastern Ontario is also on the list.
The number of deaths in the province rose by one to eight, according to information posted Monday morning on the Ministry of Health’s COVID-19 tracking website. The site is updated at 10:30 a.m. and 5:30 p.m.
As of Monday morning, Ontario has approved 28,506 people for testing. Of those, 19,586 have come back negative for the virus, 8,417 are still under investigation and eight have been resolved.
The new Ottawa cases bring the city’s total to 24.
Monday’s Ontario list includes six people who have been hospitalized, including the Ottawa man. Those in hospital range from a woman in her 30s to two women in their 70s. Another four people are listed as being in institutions, with two in their 90s in Toronto and a man in his 40s in Waterloo.
In a Monday afternoon press conference, Ottawa’s medical officer of health, Dr. Vera Etches, said there may be as many as 4,000 undiagnosed cases in the city. That figure comes from statistical models that try to predict the spread of the disease. Those models were developed at the University of Toronto in response to the 2009 H1N1 flu pandemic.
“It’s not the time for non-essential excursions outside the home. It’s not the time to have friends or family over to visit,” Etches said. “Limit contact to everyone outside your household.”
Etches said the health unit is looking at several ways to monitor people’s compliance with social distancing and self-isolation. One is to simply do a phone poll: calling people to see how they’re feeling and what they’re doing to isolate themselves. But OPH is also considering a more sophisticated method of tracking behaviour.
“We’re also looking at aggregating data, potentially from electronic sources, that would tell us whether people are congregating or not. We can do that by the use of electronic media,” Etches said.
Does that include tracking cellphone data?
“It’s a potential source that’s being explored in some different places,” she acknowledged. “So we’re looking at options.”
For those people who need support while isolated, Etches said it’s best to limit that support to just one person. People who are self-isolating and don’t have symptoms are able to go out for walks, but should not be with other people and should keep a two-metre separation.
“Our parks are open, but we don’t want people to congregate in parks. We don’t want groups of people getting together to play soccer.
“You should only be connecting with your friends and family virtually,” she said. “When you do go out, keep that two-metre distance.”
Meanwhile, the National Capital Commission announced that Gatineau Park will be closed as of 9 p.m. Monday.
“To limit the spread of COVID-19 and reduce risk to employees & visitors, #GatineauPark will be closed as of 9pm Mon, March 23, until further notice,” the NCC said in a tweet.
Etches acknowledged the prolonged shutdown of schools will be difficult.
“I’m sure there are some families where that was met with less than glee,” she said.
Speaking from Rideau Cottage where he remains in self-isolation earlier Monday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said “everything is on the table” in the bid to slow the spread of the virus.
“We’ve all seen the pictures online who think you’re invincible. You’re not. Enough is enough. Go home and stay home,” Trudeau said.
The government will step up a public information campaign to explain the risks of COVID-19 and how to stop the disease from spreading.
“Listening is your duty and staying home is your way to serve,” he said.
Trudeau said he would be discussing enforcement options with premiers Monday night for those found to be disregarding public health recommendations to socially distance.
“When we see images of people out enjoying the sunshine in large groups, that is extremely concerning.
“If we see measures aren’t being taken up properly, aren’t being followed, we will look at different measures to enforce these rules. Those who are not doing their part are putting at risk everyone else.”
These enforcement measures could include random inspections and hot lines, said Health Minister Patty Hajdu.
The prime minister also announced the government will invest $192 million in companies researching a vaccine for the virus.
In the meantime, Trudeau said Canada is increasing its testing capacity every day, and working with labs to expedite the arrival of test results.
Canada now has almost 1,500 confirmed cases of the disease and 20 deaths, with COVID-19 now present in every province and territory except Nunavat.
Many cases of the virus were contracted outside of Canada, although Theresa Tam, the country’s chief public health officer, said the health system is identifying more and more cases related to community spread. An average of 10,000 people are being tested a day.
Generally, statistics for official diagnoses should be viewed with caution. Testing does not track down all cases in a community because the mild symptoms most people have aren’t distinguishable from common colds, and because public health can’t test large numbers of people.
Meanwhile, Quebec is closing all non-essential businesses and services until April 13, Premier François Legault announced Monday.
“The quicker it is done, the better,” he said, adding that all non-essential businesses need to close down by Tuesday at midnight.
Mayor Jim Watson reiterated the stay-at-home message Monday morning when he spoke by phone to CTV Morning Live.
“I don’t think a lot of people are understanding how severe the situation is,” Watson said. “When we say self-isolate, it doesn’t mean go and have a group gathering out at the neighbourhood park.
“You’ve got to stay away from people because that’s how the disease and the virus is transmitted.”
Ottawa’s regular city council meeting on Wednesday will take place by phone.
Meanwhile, the 2020 Tokyo Olympics are being postponed, according to International Olympic Committee member Dick Pound. The Games likely will be pushed back to 2021 due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. Canada had announced on Sunday that its athletes will not compete at the Summer Olympics in Japan.
Globally, more than 350,000 cases of COVID-19 have been confirmed and more than 15,000 people have died. The good news? The number of people who have recovered from the disease now exceeds 100,000, most of whom are in China.
But in other countries, the virus continues its rampage. Five per cent of all the world’s cases are in New York City, where hospitals are struggling to cope with the influx of patients. New York state accounts for half of all the cases in the U.S. and one in eight of those infected has required hospitalization, according to The New York Times.
Italy, the epicentre of the COVID-19 battle, reported it had more than 59,000 infections Monday and 5,476 deaths.
In his press briefing Monday, Trudeau also announced multiple new flights to bring stranded Canadians home from abroad due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Trudeau says that will include three new Air Canada flights to bring Canadians back from Peru, which has otherwise closed its airspace.
More to come.
— With files from The Canadian Press