News

Ontario Significantly Enhancing COVID-19 Screening Measures and Supports

TORONTO — With the increasing severity of the COVID-19 outbreak, Ontario has now launched an enhanced and interactive self-assessment tool. This new easy-to-use tool takes the public through a series of questions to inform those who are concerned they may have contracted COVID-19. In a matter of seconds, this tool will help people determine if they are negative or it will provide them with guidance on where to seek care based on their needs. Critically, the enhanced tool provides the province with real-time data on the number and geography of users who are told to seek care, self-isolate or to monitor for symptoms. This data will help inform Ontario's ongoing response in order to keep individuals and families safe.

"I encourage anyone who may have been exposed to COVID-19, have symptoms or may have travelled outside of Canada to first self-isolate and then take a few seconds to complete our new online assessment tool," said Christine Elliott, Deputy Premier and Minister of Health. "This easy-to-use tool, developed with guidance from Dr. Williams, Ontario's Chief Medical Officer of Health, is a great first step in that process. By answering a few questions, Ontarians will be able to make informed choices about what to do, while the province collects real-time data to enhance our ongoing response."

The tool guides individuals through a series of questions and, based on their responses, users are provided clear direction on what action to take. These next steps could include: continue to practice social distancing; self-isolate; call a primary care provider or Telehealth Ontario; or in the case of symptoms such as severe difficulty breathing or severe chest pain, call 911 or go to the emergency department.

Those people whose self-assessment shows they may have COVID-19 will be advised to call their primary care provider, who can conduct a virtual assessment by phone or other technology. People can also call Telehealth Ontario at 1-866-797-0000 (24/7), where they can speak to a health care professional about their symptoms. As announced last week, the province is rapidly expanding service capacity to ensure timely responses and has increased Telehealth's line capacity to more than 2,000 to help manage the high daily call volume.

In some cases, based on the virtual assessment, individuals may be referred by their primary care provider or Telehealth Ontario to one of the province's 58 assessment centres for an in-person assessment. These centres, which are by referral only, are helping to ease the pressures on hospital emergency departments using innovative care models, including in some cases drive-thru testing.

As part of the investment of up to $304 million to enhance the province's response to COVID-19, Ontario will be establishing additional assessment centres across the province. The centres are located in dedicated spaces, which will facilitate high-quality care to protect broader patient populations. The 58 centres that have already opened are in several municipalities across the province. 

Visit Ontario's website to learn more about how the province continues to protect Ontarians from COVID-19.

Quick Facts

  • Ontarians should be practising social distancing to reduce their exposure to other people. Avoid close contact (within 2 metres) with people outside of your immediate families.
  • Anyone who has travelled outside of Canada should:
    • Self-isolate for 14 days when they return. People who are self-isolating should not go to work.
    • Monitor themselves for symptoms of the 2019 novel coronavirus for 14 days after returning to Canada.
    • Contact their primary care provider or Telehealth Ontario at 1-866-797-0000 if they experience symptoms of the 2019 novel coronavirus.
  • To help prevent the spread of COVID-19, wash your hands often, cough and sneeze into your sleeve or a tissue, and stay home if you are feeling sick.

Additional Resources

March 23, 2020

Closure of Drive Test Centres In Response to COVID-19

TORONTO - Christine Elliott, Deputy Premier and Minister of Health, and Caroline Mulroney, Minister of Transportation issued the following statement today regarding the status of Drive Test Centres and Travel Point locations:

"Based on the advice of Ontario's Chief Medical Officer of Health to help prevent the spread of COVID-19, all full-time DriveTest Centres and part-time Travel Point locations will be closed. The closures will take effect March 23, 2020 until further notice.

The decision to close was the result of a mutual agreement between the government and service provider.

Ontarians can rest assured they will not lose their current driver's licences due to this decision and no driver's licence applicants will lose test fees as a result of the closures. The current "Fail to Keep Appointment" penalty fee will also be waived.

We have a responsibility to Ontarians to ensure that we take every possible step to enable social distancing and prevent the spread of COVID-19."

Additional Resources

March 22, 2020

Province Takes Steps to Ensure Frontline Staff Can Continue to Work

TORONTO — In order to support health care and frontline workers during this COVID-19 outbreak, Ontario plans to exempt certain child care centres from the order to close all licensed child care centres pursuant to the state of emergency declared earlier this week. This initiative is being done in partnership with service system managers and First Nations partners.

"We need to help our nurses, doctors and frontline care workers to be able to focus on protecting the health and well-being of all Ontarians," said Christine Elliott, Deputy Premier and Minister of Health. "By allowing select child care centres to open their doors during these challenging times, our province's courageous frontline workers can rest assured knowing that their families are also being looked after."

Health care and other frontline workers, including doctors, nurses, paramedics, firefighters, police, and correctional officers, will be able to access safe, local emergency child care. These child care centres will be required to follow existing health and safety requirements and have a plan in place should any staff, children or parents be exposed to the virus.

"During this unprecedented situation, we need to do everything we can to ensure our health care and other frontline staff have the support they need to continue to work," said Stephen Lecce, Minister of Education. "At the same time, we need to protect the safety of the staff and children at these centres. For that reason, we are putting strict measures in place, such as restricting the types of centres that can re-open and keeping the number of children in any one centre low." 

Once emergency child care centres open, a list of locations will be made available on ontario.ca/coronavirus.

Quick Facts

  • Ontario schools will be closed from March 14 through to April 5, 2020 in an effort to keep Ontario’s students safe from COVID-19.
  • On Friday March 20, Ontario launched the first phase of Learn at Home and Apprendre à la maison, a new online portal that will provide resources for families so students can continue their education while schools are closed due to the ongoing COVID-19 situation.
  • Visit Ontario’s website to learn more about how the province continues to protect Ontarians from COVID-19.

Additional Resources

March 22, 2020

Ontario Takes Extraordinary Steps to Ensure Health Care Resources are Available to Contain COVID-19

TORONTO — Today, the Ontario government announced a new order under the March 17, 2020 declaration of emergency to ensure health care resources are available to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 and keep individuals and families safe. This temporary order would give hospitals the ability to cancel and postpone services to free-up space and valuable staff, identify staffing priorities, and develop, modify and implement redeployment plans.

"On the best advice of Ontario's Chief Medical Officer of Health, and in response to clear and urgent requests from our frontline health service providers, the province is taking decisive action to ensure we can continue to be responsive and nimble as the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases grows," said Sylvia Jones, Solicitor General. "While normal protocols are important in routine times, these extraordinary steps will ensure our health sector workers are there, where and when they are needed, to care for Ontarians and support our extensive efforts to contain this virus."

Under this temporary order hospitals will be able to respond to, prevent and alleviate an outbreak of COVID-19 by carrying out measures such as:

 

  • Redeploying staff within different locations in (or between) facilities of the hospital;
  • Redeploying staff to work in COVID-19 assessment centres;
  • Changing the assignment of work, including assigning non-bargaining unit employees or contractors to perform bargaining unit work;
  • Changing the scheduling of work or shift assignments;
  • Deferring or cancelling vacations, absences or other leaves, regardless of whether such vacations, absences or leaves are established by statute, regulation, agreement or otherwise;
  • Employing extra part-time or temporary staff or contractors, including for the purpose of performing bargaining unit work;
  • Using volunteers to perform work, including to perform bargaining work; and
  • Providing appropriate training or education as needed to staff and volunteers to achieve the purposes of a redeployment plan.

 

When utilized by hospitals, these redeployment plans temporarily supersede the provisions of a collective agreement, including lay-off, seniority/service or bumping provisions. For example, currently a hospital would be required to post a lay-off notice and wait a period of time before being able to move a nurse or other unionized employee from an emergency department to a COVID-19 assessment centre. These measures would allow for the redeployment of staff to address the containment of COVID-19 without restriction or delay.

"I want to once again thank our nurses, doctors and frontline care workers for their extraordinary dedication and commitment as we continue to work together to protect the health and well-being of Ontarians," said Christine Elliott, Deputy Premier and Minister of Health. "These temporary measures are necessary to ensure hospitals are able to effectively deploy personnel to where help and support is needed most in their facilities."

This time-limited order is valid for 14 days unless revoked or renewed in accordance with the Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act.

Quick Facts

  • Ontarians should be practising social distancing to reduce their exposure to other people. Avoid close contact (within 2 metres) with people outside of your immediate families.
  • If you are returning from travel outside of Canada or if you believe you have been exposed to someone with COVID-19 symptoms, you should begin to self-isolate for a period of 14 days, including social distancing and tracking your symptoms and how you feel.

Additional Resources

March 21, 2020

Ontario Urges Business to Join the Fight Against COVID-19

TORONTO — The Ontario Government is launching Ontario Together, a new website that will help businesses and their employees work with the province to meet the challenges of COVID-19. This initiative will remove barriers allowing Ontario's manufacturing sector to redeploy capacity towards the production of essential equipment like ventilators, masks and swabs.

Today's announcement was made by Premier Doug Ford and Vic Fedeli, Minister of Economic Development, Job Creation and Trade, Christine Elliott, Deputy Premier and Minister of Health, Rod Phillips, Minister of Finance and Flavio Volpe, President, Automotive Parts Manufacturers' Association (APMA).  

"We're ready to mobilize our manufacturing might to help the entire country and we want Ontario to become the workshop of Canada," said Premier Ford. "Extraordinary times call for extraordinary efforts and we are already seeing people stepping up and offering to help out as we deal with this unprecedented situation. This is a true demonstration of Ontario Spirit."

Ontario Together will identify the province's supply challenges and solicit ideas and advice from Ontario's business and manufacturing communities on how the government can work together to meet the need. Through the portal, companies will be able to submit proposals for the government to procure required goods and services and share creative solutions quickly.

"We're looking forward to leveraging Ontario's world class manufacturing and IT sectors to provide the necessary assistance to combat COVID-19," said Vic Fedeli, Minister of Economic Development, Job Creation and Trade. "Ontario's businesses have shown they are ready and willing to work with us, and we urge them to join our government in finding made-in-Ontario solutions to ensure we continue to stay well supplied."

"Ontario is home to some of the world's best hospitals led by dedicated professionals who are working around-the-clock to identify, diagnose and treat our population to manage and slow the spread of COVID-19," said Christine Elliott, Deputy Premier and Minister of Health. "If we are going to stop the spread of this virus, we will need a steady stream of medical products and supplies to treat patients and keep frontline workers safe and healthy."

Through the Ontario Together website, the government will be partnering with some of the most innovative people across Canada and around the world, in order to redirect resources and explore new ways of doing business creatively and efficiently.

"Responding to COVID-19 is requiring all of us to think outside of the box and move quickly," said Lisa Thompson, Minister of Government and Consumer Services. "By relying on status-quo procurement tools and techniques we will be unable to keep up with this rapidly evolving situation. Ontario Together will help us overcome the unique challenges we are facing today."

Additional Resources

Quotes

“How firmly this government responded to the crisis of our times will be the only measure that will matter when Ontario is successful in its defence of public health.”

Flavio Volpe

President, Automotive Parts Manufacturers’ Association (APMA)

“Manufacturing is a key part of our economy and a critical infrastructure. More than ever, our sector and supply chains need support to address the challenges related to the COVID-19 crisis. We greatly appreciate the government for taking the initiative to launch a procurement tool that will remove barriers and help Ontario manufacturers and their employees continue to play an essential role in solving this crisis.”

Dennis Darby

President and CEO, Canadian Manufacturers & Exporters (CME)

“Our members are working hard to develop tests, treatments, vaccines and many other products to combat COVID-19. This portal will help facilitate partnerships between the private and public sectors as we respond to the current health crisis. LSO applauds the provincial government's leadership at this critical time.”

Dr. Jason Field

President and CEO, Life Sciences Ontario (LSO)

“A smart way to help Ontario’s economy in these challenging times is by procuring products and services from our innovative small and medium sized businesses and technology scale-ups that can directly reduce the spread of COVID-19. We welcome the government’s efforts to ‘flatten the curve’ by engaging domestic innovators, and we encourage all companies in the health, fintech, remote work and education delivery sectors to support this initiative and apply today.”

Benjamin Bergen

Executive Director, Council of Canadian Innovators (CCI)

March 21, 2020

Ontario Expands Coverage for Care

TORONTO — As the COVID-19 outbreak continues to evolve globally and locally, Ontario is taking decisive and swift action to ensure the province continues to protect the health and well-being of Ontarians.

To ensure that anyone in need of care can receive it, Ontario is waiving the three-month waiting period for Ontario Health Insurance Plan (OHIP) coverage. Additionally, the province will cover the cost of COVID-19 services for uninsured people who do not meet the criteria for OHIP coverage. Together, these measures will ensure that no one will be discouraged from seeking screening or treatment for COVID-19 for financial reasons.

"The health and well-being of Ontarians continues to be our government's number one priority," said Christine Elliott, Deputy Premier and Minister of Health. "That's why we're working to guarantee that anyone who needs screening or care for COVID-19 will get it. In doing so, we can further help ensure we contain the spread of this virus."

These measures are in addition to Ontario's recent announcement that Ontarians with expiring and expired health cards will continue to have access to insured health services.

Ontario is continuing to work with all partners across the system, from public health to hospitals and community care, to do everything we can to contain COVID-19 and ensure that the system is prepared to respond to any scenario.

Visit Ontario's website to learn more about how the province continues to protect Ontarians from COVID-19.

Quick Facts

  • Ontarians should be practising social distancing to reduce their exposure to other people. Avoid close contact (within 2 metres) with people outside of your immediate families.
  • If you are returning from travel outside of Canada or if you believe you have been exposed to someone with COVID-19 symptoms, you should begin to self-isolate for a period of 14 days, including social distancing and tracking your symptoms and how you feel.

Additional Resources

March 20, 2020

Ontario Stepping Up Measures to Limit the Spread of COVID-19 in Correctional System

TORONTO — Today, Christine Elliott, Deputy Premier and Minister of Health, and Sylvia Jones, Solicitor General, issued the following statement regarding regulatory changes to temporary absences and parole at Ontario's adult correctional facilities as a further precautionary response to COVID-19:

"As Ontario continues to act to slow the spread of COVID-19, we are making further changes to protect our frontline workers and our health care system from the burden an outbreak in our correctional system could cause.

On March 13, we announced measures to protect Ontario's adult correctional facilities from COVID-19 by granting intermittent inmates, who serve time on the weekends, temporary absences from custody, and temporarily halting personal visits. Intermittent inmates have already been deemed low-risk by the courts and remain in the community Monday to Friday to live and work.

Building on these changes, Ontario is implementing amendments to Regulation 778 under the Ministry of Correctional Services Act to allow senior corrections officials to expand the use of temporary absences and for the Ontario Parole Board to use alternatives to in-person meetings.

Going forward, correctional services will have the option to issue temporary absences beyond the current 72-hour maximum. This means those serving intermittent sentences, who have been granted a temporary absence will not have to report to a correctional facility every weekend, which will avoid cycling individuals back and forth between the community and a correctional facility. 

In addition, the longer-term temporary absences will allow for early release of those inmates who are near the end of their sentence. To ensure public safety, inmates would be carefully assessed to ensure they are a low risk to reoffend. Those inmates who have been convicted of serious crimes, such as violent crimes or crimes involving guns, would not be considered for early release.

A second regulatory amendment will allow the Ontario Parole Board to conduct hearings by electronic or written means, rather than solely in-person, providing alternate options for hearings.

We continue to evaluate all options to limit the possible spread of COVID-19 within our correctional system. These regulatory amendments will help us preserve the integrity of our health care system, protect our frontline workers and help keep our communities safe."

March 20, 2020

Statement by Minister Elliott and Minister Mulroney on How Ontario is Protecting Ontario Drivers During COVID-19

TORONTO - Today, Christine Elliott, Deputy Premier and Minister of Health, and Caroline Mulroney, Minister of Transportation issued the following statement in response to COVID-19 and ensuring that Ontario drivers are being protected:

"The health and safety of Ontarians continues to remain our top priority.

As announced yesterday, the province is extending the validity of government driver, vehicle, carrier products and services to help keep people safe and reduce the need for in-person visits to DriveTest centres.

We want to assure Ontarians no driver's licence applicant will lose test fees as result of a last-minute cancellation or not attending DriveTest or as a result of a DriveTest interruption in service. In addition to the road test fees, we will also be waiving the current "Fail to Keep Appointment" penalty fee.

Ontario will ensure that no customer will lose their current licence or lose their prepaid testing fees due to the current situation. If you have a road test scheduled and would like to reschedule please do so in advance of your appointment date.

This direction will be in place until further notice, based on the advice of Ontario's Chief Medical Officer of Health and public health officials.

We encourage people to use the extended validation period, and to follow the advice of our medical professions and stay at home.

We have a responsibility to Ontarians to ensure that we take every possible step to enable social distancing and stop the spread of COVID-19.

These additional measures are expected to minimize any impact to the driving needs of Ontarians during COVID-19."

Quick Facts

March 20, 2020

Ontario Helping Students Learn from the Safety of Their Own Home

TORONTO — Today, Premier Doug Ford joined Stephen Lecce, Minister of Education to launch the first phase of Learn at Home and Apprendre à la maison, a new online portal that will provide resources for families so students can continue their education while schools are closed due to the ongoing COVID-19 situation.

"As a father myself, I know parents always want the best for their children, and I also know from speaking to parents that many are concerned that their child is going to fall behind while schools are closed during this difficult period," said Premier Ford. "To support families and students, our government has developed a one-stop spot for at-home learning. It doesn't replace school, but offers a great alternative as we approach the end of March Break."

Learn at Home offers all students high-quality, made-in-Ontario math and literacy resources, created by Ontario-certified educators, in both English and French. Elementary resources are designed to help young students learn at home with interactive activities that encourage participation through entertaining and stimulating digital content. High school content was designed with a focus on STEM courses and ensure core competencies and skills are reinforced. The government is also providing access to course content for students who take the initiative to refresh and extend their learning. 

"The Learn at Home initiative will help mitigate 'learning loss' during this period of uncertainty," said Minister Lecce. "Our plan will provide interactive teacher-led math supports to keep students learning and empower all students to learn key skills with an emphasis on STEM education, while also arming parents with resources to support them as their kids learn at home."

"By offering new at-home educational resources, the province is further supporting Ontario's families as they help contain the spread of COVID-19," said Christine Elliott, Minister of Health. "Each and every Ontarian has a role to play in flattening the curve. Our government is providing families with the support they need so that they can continue to contribute to our shared goal of protecting the health and wellbeing of all Ontarians, including our young students."

"TVO is proud to be part of this important initiative by the Ministry of Education." said Jennifer Hinshelwood, TVO's Acting Chief Operating Officer. "TVO's suite of digital learning products are designed to engage young minds in learning - a mission that seems doubly important at times like this when many of our traditional learning environments are not accessible."

The at-home activities offered by Learn at Home provide quick and easy access to some of Ontario's best online kindergarten to grade 12 learning resources produced by Ontario College of Teachers (OCT) Educators. As part of the government's commitment to planning for every scenario, the province is working closely with education stakeholders to develop a plan for scaling and building additional online learning programs.

"In these uncertain times, we are proud as a public agency to join the Ministry of Education's efforts in supporting families and students," said Eric Minoli, TFO's Chief Operating Officer. "Our online Apprendre à la maison program will help ensure continuity in education for Francophone and Francophile parents. TFO will be offering daily activities which will be accessible at all times on our IDELLO.ORG platform, BOUKILI.CA and our TV channel. TFO will remain a proud partner of all families through a tailored program of fun, high-quality educational activities and content, all of which will be aligned with the curriculum of Ontario."

Quick Facts

  • For students who do not have access to a computer, work is underway, in conjunction with school boards, to provide the necessary technology to everyone who needs it.
  • TVO Kids offers educational programing throughout the day for school-aged children. Check out their broadcast schedule here to know what is on and when.
  • Bilingual materials on Learn at Home will continue to be added on a regular basis to provide new and compelling content throughout this period. Other learning programs, such as Ontario’s Virtual Learning Environment, are being further developed to provide enhanced learning options.
  • Mathify provides real-time homework help led by OCT educators for students between grades 6-10, six days a week, including weekdays from 9AM ET – 9PM ET. The Government worked in concert with TVO to expand Mathify beyond the existing grades 7-10, to now include grade six.
  • Eurêka! is another online learning support program that helps students in French language schools from grades 1 to 12 with their school work and their learning.
  • Ontario public schools will be closed from March 14 through to April 5, 2020 in an effort to contain the spread of COVID-19. Similarly, private schools and licensed child care centres will also be closed until April 5, 2020.
  • EQAO assessments for the 2019-20 school year have been cancelled, including the Ontario Secondary School Literacy test. The literacy requirement for students graduating in the 2019-20 school year has also been waived.
  • The Ministry of Education is working with TVO and TFO to roll-out robust education programming on their broadcast channels, with a phased-in approach commencing next week. This iterative process will ensure that Ontario students and families have additional mediums available for engaging with high-quality, made-in-Ontario education resources that support a continuity of learning for students.

Additional Resources

March 20, 2020

Ontario Supporting Workers, Municipalities and Retailers in Response to COVID-19

TORONTO ― Today, the Ontario government took unprecedented action to respond to COVID-19 by convening an emergency sitting of the legislature and passing two pieces of legislation which will protect the jobs of employees who self-isolate or quarantine, help keep store shelves stocked and give municipal councils the flexibility to continue operations while maintaining social distance.

The legislation passed with unanimous consent by only 26 MPPs. The number of members participating in this extraordinary session was intentionally kept small in order to practice social distancing and help prevent the spread of COVID-19. A first in Ontario history.

"I want to thank all parties for coming together to pass this important legislation so we can deliver immediate relief to Ontario workers and families," said Premier Doug Ford. "The health and safety of the people of Ontario is our number one priority and that's why we are protecting the jobs of workers and making sure that essentials like groceries, household basics, and medicine can arrive on store shelves. We must work together as Team Ontario to slow the spread of COVID-19 and flatten the curve."

The Employment Standards Amendment Act (Infectious Disease Emergencies), 2020 provides job-protected leave for employees who are in isolation or quarantine due to COVID-19, or those who need to be away from work to care for children because of school or day care closures or to care for other relatives. These measures are retroactive to January 25, 2020, the date the first presumptive COVID-19 case was confirmed in Ontario. The legislation will also make it clear employees cannot be required to show sick notes.

"During this time of great uncertainty, the last thing employees should have to worry about is job security," said Monte McNaughton, Minister of Labour, Training and Skills Development. "People can't be punished for following the advice of our leading medical health professionals."

The Municipal Emergency Act, 2020 will ensure that for the near future, the delivery of goods to Ontario's businesses and consumers isn't impacted by municipal noise by-laws that may unintentionally be impeding such deliveries when they are most urgently needed. The legislation also gives municipalities the ability to fully conduct Council, local board and committee meetings electronically when faced with local and province-wide emergencies, empowering the government's municipal partners to respond quickly when in-person meetings cannot be held.

"These changes will assist in getting goods to market in a more expeditious manner. Our government wants to do everything we can to help connect distribution centres with grocery stores and pharmacies to replenish empty shelves more quickly," said Steve Clark, Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing. "As well, we are helping communities respond to this crisis by allowing councils to conduct meetings remotely. These changes empower municipalities to respond quickly and continue to function when in-person meetings cannot be held, and council decisions need to be made."

Background Information

March 19, 2020