Ontario extends COVID-19 state of emergency another month
Ontario has again extended the state of emergency because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The four-week extension follows another spike in coronavirus cases.
After debating the issue for several hours the government voted to extend the state of emergency until the end of June.
That means social gatherings of more than five people who are not from the same household, are banned. Bars and restaurants must remain closed or provide takeout or delivery only.
“Let me be clear," said Premier Doug Ford. "This does not mean that the reopening is on hold. We’re working around the clock to move ahead with our economic reopening and, as I said last week, our health officials are working on the option of a regional model, because we need a plan that recognizes the reality on the ground in different parts of our province.”
Ford added that Ontario must remain vigilant, because a second wave of COVID-19 is possible.
The province declared the state of emergency in mid-March and has extended it several times since then, as the number of COVID-19 cases continues to climb.
On Tuesday, health officials reported 446 new infections, bringing the total to just over 28,700.
Meanwhile, advocates and legal experts are raising concerns about potential privacy violations in Ontario's emergency orders. The orders allow first responders to access personal health details of residents who have tested positive for COVID-19.
The Progressive Conservative government says police, firefighters and paramedics need access to such information in order to protect themselves from contracting the virus while doing their jobs in the community.
But a group of advocates and public health workers say the orders are too broad and represent a significant privacy infringement. They say first responders could make use of such data to target racialized and other marginalized communities.
They are calling for the Ontario government to either cut off access to such data or build a firm "sunset clause" into the orders to ensure the information can't be accessed in the future.
"We don't know how long police are going to have access to this data, what they're going to do to it," said Alexander McClelland, a criminology scholar and spokesperson for an advocacy group dubbed We Can't Police Our Way Out of a Pandemic. "It's also just an unjustified, unprecedented violation of privacy rights."
The Associated Press contributed to this story.