Ontario Premier Doug Ford has ordered all non-essential businesses in the province to shut down, a significant escalation in the fight to slow the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The order will go into effect at 11:59 p.m. Tuesday, and will last at least 14 days. On Tuesday, the government will release a list of the businesses that will be allowed to stay open, Ford said at a press conference Monday afternoon.
"We must get ahead of this virus to beat this virus," said a sombre Ford, speaking from Queen's Park. "We must slow the spread."
Ford said the public will still be able to access groceries, medicine and other essentials. Vital services such as power and telecommunications will also keep running.
Workplaces that can run with employees working remotely now have just under 36 hours to "adapt and prepare," Ford said. The province is prepared to extend the shutdown order if necessary, he added.
"This is not the time for half-measures," the premier said. "This decision was not made lightly. And the gravity of this order does not escape me."
Ford didn't say whether Ontario would offer compensation to businesses, saying the province would announce more details of its plans Tuesday morning.
Ontario reported 78 new cases of the novel coronavirus Monday, a significant jump that brings the province's total recorded cases to 489. Six deaths in Ontario have been linked to COVID-19.
When asked whether Ontario would tighten restrictions on gatherings — right now, groups of up to 50 are allowed — Ford said only that the government is following the advice of the province's chief public health officer, Dr. David Williams.
"We must get ahead of this virus to beat this virus," said Ontario Premier Doug Ford. "We must slow the spread."
Though Ford urged hope, telling the public the province would have their backs, he also sternly called for Ontarians to follow public health guidelines around social distancing. At times, he was visibly frustrated, especially when describing "numerous stories" of people returning from abroad and disobeying orders to self-isolate for 14 days — including 'snowbirds' who spend winters in Florida.
"The rules in Florida is not the rules here in Ontario," Ford said, adding that failing to self-isolate puts thousands of others at risk.
"Down in the U.S, it is spreading rapidly, right across their country. We have to take strict measures to make sure people, once they arrive, go directly home."
Ford also repeated pleas for everyone else to continue to practice social distancing: "If you can, please stay home," he said. "Only leave if necessary."
This story was updated at 2:38 p.m. ET.