Toronto and Peel are moving to temporarily shutter businesses where multiple and linked cases of COVID-19 have occurred.
Dr. Lawrence Loh, medical officer of health for Peel Region, issued a Section 22 order Tuesday that forces any business with five or more linked COVID-19 cases over the previous two weeks to close for 10 days.
“This will allow us to investigate without risk of continuing spread,” the hotspot region said in a tweet Tuesday.
Dr. Eileen de Villa, the City of Toronto’s medical officer of health, later ordered that workplaces, or portions of workplaces, be closed for a minimum of 10 days if five or more cases within a 14-day period where infections could “reasonably” have been acquired at the work site.
“Workplaces that are open provide an opportunity for COVID-19 to spread,” de Villa said in a statement. “Given that the majority of our cases are now as a result of variants of concern, which transmit faster, this order will support Toronto Public Health’s investigators to help workplaces immediately reduce the risk of spread and manage workplace outbreaks quickly.”
Peel and Toronto have the highest rates of COVID-19 infections per capita in the province — 5,198 cases per 100,000 residents in Peel and 4,207 cases per 100,000 residents in Toronto.
The Brampton Board of Trade said the Peel Region order raises questions about how many workplaces will be impacted, who’s exempted and how will officials determine an outbreak is linked to the job.
Ontario Labour Minister Monte McNaughton said the province has done thousands of inspections of Peel Region workplaces.
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“We need all employers to be following the protocols to ensure that they’re pre-screening workers before they go into work to ensure that they’re symptom-free from COVID-19,” McNaughton said.
On the question of a provincial paid sick leave program – a measure that public health officials have championed to allow people to stay home when they have symptoms – the Ford government did not explicitly rule it out.