“I want companies to start getting ready. We’re getting close. I’m giving you hope,” Ford said Thursday at his daily pandemic press conference at Queen’s Park.
“We have many reasons to be optimistic right now.”
All non-essential businesses were ordered to close on March 23 as the disease caused by the novel coronavirus took hold in Ontario.
As of Thursday morning, COVID-19 had killed 1,082 Ontarians, with four hundred and fifty-nine new reported cases, a 2.9 per cent increase over the number of cases reported the day before.
We have made tremendous progress.Premier Doug Ford
The day businesses were forced to close, Ontario reported 78 new cases of the disease. That was an 18 per cent increase over the previous day’s total.
“We have made tremendous progress,” the premier said Thursday.
“Today, we are on the path to reopening the economy because that curve is flattening. That surge in our hospitals, we avoided it. And that trend is going down. There is a light at the end of the tunnel.”
Guidelines and fines for employers
He and his minister of labour unveiled guidelines for how industries can keep their workers safe as the economy comes back to life.
Offices should let employees work remotely as much as possible, the guidelines say, and send anyone showing symptoms of a cold, flu or COVID-19 home. Workers should maintain six feet of distance from colleagues, avoid sharing keyboards or workstations, wear gloves when touching high-touch surfaces and wash their clothes as soon as they get home.
Retail businesses should offer as much delivery, online ordering and curbside pickup as possible. Stores should provide hand sanitizers and sanitizing wipes to customers and a place to dispose of them in the parking lot, among other measures the document suggests.
Construction sites are encouraged to stagger start times and breaks and hold meetings outside or in large, open spaces to minimize contact between workers.
Labour Minister Monte McNaughton also said the province had hired 58 new labour inspectors to enforce physical distancing rules and safety measures.
Companies will be fined $750 if they don’t improve after being warned by an inspector, McNaughton said.
“Employers are doing a good job, but we have to do better.”
Some employers will work hard to keep people as safe as they can ... And some absolutely will not.NDP Leader Andrea Horwath
The Opposition NDP said that the government should implement enforceable safety rules rather than guidelines.
“Some employers will work hard to keep people as safe as they can when they re-open following the COVID-19 peak. And some absolutely will not,” NDP Leader Andrea Horwath said in a statement.
“Allowing individual employers to decide if their employees, customers and suppliers get to be adequately protected is a bad idea that will put people at risk, and hurt us all if it leads to a resurgence of COVID-19.”