Ontario Premier Doug Ford raised concerns about the testing of international travellers arriving at Pearson International Airport when he announced the details of a province-wide shut down that will come into effect on Sat., Dec. 26 at 12:01 am.
In his remarks, Premier Ford said that he is “extremely alarmed” by reports of a new strain of COVID-19 that is much more contagious than “what we’ve been facing so far.”
He continued: “This is an extremely serious threat. One we must take seriously and we need to ensure that our border is secure. We need to be certain that we’re catching cases of COVID before they have a chance to spread in our communities.”
Ford said that the province has repeatedly asked the federal government to “secure our borders,” yet he pointed out “63,000 people are going unchecked every week just through Pearson International Airport.”
The premier said that it is critical that, at a minimum, passengers arriving at the airport need to be tested and if the federal government “won’t do it, we will do it ourselves if needed.”
Questioned following the announcement, Ford said that Ontario will be doing tests whether or not it is supported by the federal government – although he said that he hoped both the federal government and the GTAA would support such efforts
Otherwise, Ontario’s Premier said: “We’ll be doing Ride Checks on the side of the road as people exit because we’re not putting people at risk here in Ontario.”
In making the announcement that Ontario would be going into a province-wide shutdown, Premier Ford was accompanied by Christine Elliott, Deputy Premier and Minister of Health, Stephen Lecce, Minister of Education, Dr. David Williams, Chief Medical Officer of Health, and Dr. Naveed Mohammad, President and CEO, William Osler Health System.
The premier said that: “The number of daily cases continue to rise putting our hospitals and long-term care homes at risk. We need to stop the spread of this deadly virus. That’s why, on the advice of Dr. Williams and other health experts, we are taking the difficult but necessary decision to shut down the province and ask people to stay home. Nothing is more important right now than the health and safety of all Ontarians.”
As a result, the province-wide shutdown will put in place time-limited public health and workplace safety measures similar to those in other jurisdictions. It will help stop the trend of high COVID-19 transmission in communities, preserve health system capacity, safeguard vulnerable populations and those who care for them, and save lives.
Measures include, but are not limited to:
- Restricting indoor organized public events and social gatherings, except with members of the same household (the people you live with). Individuals who live alone may consider having exclusive close contact with one other household.
- Prohibiting in-person shopping in most retail settings – curbside pickup and delivery can continue. Discount and big box retailers selling groceries will be limited to 25% capacity for in-store shopping. Supermarkets, grocery stores and similar stores that primarily sell food, as well as pharmacies, will continue to operate at 50% capacity for in-store shopping.
- Restricting indoor access to shopping malls – patrons may only go to a designated indoor pickup area (by appointment only), essential retail stores that are permitted to be open (e.g. pharmacy, grocery store), or, subject to physical distancing and face covering requirements, to the food court for takeout purchases. Shopping malls may also establish outdoor designated pickup areas.
- Prohibiting indoor and outdoor dining. Restaurants, bars and other food or drink establishments will be permitted to operate by take out, drive-through, and delivery only.
And recognizing that small businesses will require additional support the government announced the new Ontario Small Business Support Grant, which will provide a minimum of $10,000 and up to $20,000 to eligible small business owners to help navigate this challenging period.
Rod Phillips, Minister of Finance, said: “Ontario’s business owners have shown remarkable resolve and ingenuity throughout the pandemic. They know better than anyone what they need to come through this very difficult time, so they can continue to serve and employ people in their communities.”
Minister Phillips continued: “The new Ontario Small Business Support Grant will provide significant financial support to eligible small business owners in addition to the other supports made available to our small business community.”
Small businesses required to close or restrict services under the province-wide shutdown will be able to apply for this one-time grant. Each small business will be able to use the support in whatever way makes the most sense for their individual business. For example, some businesses will need support paying employee wages or rent, while others will need support maintaining their inventory.
Eligible small businesses include those that:
- Are required to close or significantly restrict services subject to the province wide shutdown effective 12:01 a.m. on December 26, 2020
- Have less than 100 employees at the enterprise level
- Have experienced a minimum of 20% revenue decline in April 2020 compared to April 2019.
Starting at $10,000 for all eligible businesses, the grant will provide businesses with dollar for dollar funding to a maximum of $20,000 to help cover decreased revenue expected as a result of the province wide shutdown.
The business must demonstrate they experienced a revenue decline of at least 20% when comparing monthly revenue in April 2019 and April 2020.
This time period was selected because it reflects the impact of the public health measures in spring 2020, and as such provides a representation of the possible impact of these latest measures on small businesses.
Essential businesses that are allowed to remain open will not be eligible for this grant.
More information about the Ontario Small Business Support Grant is available at https://news.ontario.ca/en/backgrounder/59788/post-4 .
Further details, including how to apply, will be announced in January 2021.
Businesses that are impacted by the province-wide shutdown will also be eligible for the property tax and energy cost rebates.
In November, the government launched a program to provide rebates to offset fixed costs such as property tax and energy bills for businesses that are required to shut down or significantly restrict services due to provincial public health measures.
These Ontario Small Business Support Grant rebates will continue to be available for businesses impacted by the province wide shutdown and earlier restrictions. Business can apply for the rebates at https://news.ontario.ca/en/backgrounder/59788/post-4 .