Today marks three months since Ontario first issued a state-of-emergency order that forced businesses deemed ‘non-essential’ to shutdown.
That measure left thousands of businesses without the means to pay rent.
The Ford government moved today to speed up passage of a bill that would temporarily suspend commercial evictions during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The government plans to introduce legislation that will protect commercial tenants from being locked out or having their assets seized due to the negative impacts of the coronavirus.
“I have to protect the little guy … I always have to protect the little guys,” said Premier Doug Ford during a news conference at Queen’s Park.
The commercial eviction ban would be retroactive to May 1.
Ford had previously called on landlords “to do the right thing” and take advantage of the rent relief program the province created with the federal government.
The joint Canada Emergency Commercial Rent Assistance (CECRA) program was first announced in April but has been heavily scrutinized because it’s optional for landlords.
It’s not immediately clear if the eviction ban applies to all businesses or just those that have applied for the CECRA program.
Health Minister asked about outbreaks among migrant workers
Meantime, most regions of the province were allowed to enter Stage 2 of Ontario’s reopening plan on Friday as the provincial caseload stabilized.
There have been 300 or less new COVID-19 cases in Ontario over the past 10 days.
“There are unmistakable signs that we are making real progress in our fight against this virus,” said Health Minister Christine Elliott.
More than 80 percent of all the new provincial cases were reported in Toronto, Peel and Windsor-Essex – all regions held back from entering Stage 2.
Elliott was asked if the current outbreaks among migrant workers is the biggest factor in keeping Windsor-Essex in Stage 1.
The Health Minister deflected the question, instead pointing to the need for more workers to get tested.
“We can’t force people to get tested,” said Elliott.
The number of infected migrant workers in Southern Ontario is approaching 500.
An advocacy group released a report on Monday suggesting migrant workers are experiencing poor access to food and cramped bunkhouses at Ontario farms.
In one case, the Migrant Workers Alliance for Change said 40 people in a dorm were sharing one shower.
“We are in the midst of a human rights catastrophe,” said MWAC executive director Syed Hussan.
SickKids school reopening recommendations
Meantime, Toronto’s Hospital for Sick Children released a report Wednesday that says children should be allowed to go back to school in September.
The report contained recommendations on how kids can return to school safely.
“While school closures may have been reasonable as part of the early pandemic response, current evidence and experience support the concept that children can return to school in a manner that maximizes children’s health and minimizes risks from a public health perspective,” said SickKids.
SickKids recommends classes be held outside when possible, large gatherings and assemblies be cancelled and lunch breaks staggered.
Ford said Wednesday that he wouldn’t risk anything that “puts our kids in jeopardy.”
Ontario’s Education Minister said the province will continue to consult with health experts.
“We will take a cautious approach that underscores our complete commitment to safety,” said Lecce.
“We also appreciate the advice from the Hospital For Sick Children related to the importance of robust mental health supports, to ensure this transition is positive. We will ensure those supports are in place.”
- It’s recommended that parents and caregivers screen students for symptoms of coronavirus before they head off to school rather than having the schools conduct on-site temperature testing which will likely result in increased lineups and delayed entry.
- A regular schedule for routine hand hygiene, above and beyond what is usually recommended is also advised and children should also be taught how to clean their hands properly “in a non-judgemental and positive manner.”
- Non-medical and medical face masks are not required or recommended for children returning to school, adding it is not practical for a child to wear a mask properly for the duration of a school day. For teachers, wearing a mask is a reasonable option if close prolonged contact with others cannot be avoided and teachers should explain the rationale to students.
- Strict physical distancing should not be emphasized to children in the school setting as it is not practical and could cause significant psychological harm. During outdoor activities, such as recess, physical distancing should not be required.
- Sports and physical education classes should be encouraged and schools should endeavour to offer as many of their usual clubs and activities as possible.
- When it comes to the mixing of students and staff, the report says while it would like to see less mixing between classes and years, student well-being and mental health should be prioritized and class or program switching should not be denied on the basis of cohorting.
- A regular cleaning schedule should be used with emphasis on high touch surfaces along with reinforcing “no sharing” policies when it comes to food, water bottles or cutlery.