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Essential workers worried Ontario’s recent COVID-19 closure would not protect them




Some core workers fear that the recent “closure” that Prime Minister Doug Ford is imposing on Ontario will do little to protect them from COVID-19.

The measures announced on Thursday the personal care services of shutters and dining rooms of restaurants across the province, but allow other essential and non-essential businesses to operate with stricter capacity limits and urge schools to stay open.

Some retailers worry that the latest round of public health rules is not going far enough to discourage customers from buying en masse.

Essential retail stores are covered at 50 percent of their maximum capacity and non-core stores are limited to 25 percent.

But 25-year-old Meghan Ghent, who works at a high-end store in Toronto, says the move has been in place since it joined the gray closure area a month ago.

She says some days, foot traffic is at what feels like “pre-pandemic levels”.

And she points out that she is unable to work behind a plexiglass barrier or maintain the recommended two feet of physical distance from customers and staff.

“I do not feel safe continuing to work with non-core retailers in a third wave,” Ghent said. “Even with the extremely strict precautions I make myself, based solely on the number of people we have to interact with indoors – some do not wear masks properly or even at all – I do not feel safe.” .

The closure of Ford, a step above the gray block level of the province’s pandemic response framework, takes effect the first thing on Saturday and will last for at least four weeks.

The Prime Minister said it was disgusting to take the step, but called it necessary to control the spread of the most contagious variants of COVID-19 that are feeding the third wave of the pandemic despite an acceleration of vaccines.

His government stopped imposing a stay-at-home order like the one introduced in January, which shut down non-essential vendors and only allowed people to leave their homes for substantial travel.

“We are not going to produce a home stay message because we last saw it having an extremely bad effect on both children and adults,” Health Minister Christine Elliott said on Thursday. “… We naturally need to balance every measure we take with people’s mental health as well.”

But while the order to stay home may not have been well received, he seems to have stopped people from coming to the big box pharmacy where 22-year-old Odessa Ordanza works as a cashier in Mississauga, Ont.

She said customers have resumed this habit since the order was removed in the Peel Region less than a month ago – sometimes without glowing masks – and she hopes this closure sends the message that it is time to stop.

“It’s still kind of scary to go to work because the virus is still there, but since we’re essential, we need to open up,” Ordanza said. “Knowing that non-core stores need to open up kind of worries me.”

Workers’ concerns extend beyond the retail sector, said Doris Grinspun of the Ontario Registered Nurses Association.

She said the government should have introduced paid sick days along with its latest set of restrictions, noting such an move would mean essential workers would not have to choose between paying bills and keeping of their secure jobs.

“It is clear that outbreaks in the workplace account for a large increase in the number of cases and yet, there is still no prediction of what should be a central public health measure in the fight against this virus – days of paid for the disease, “said Grinspun.

Instead of introducing that measure, the province has encouraged people to get tested for COVID-19 so they can apply for federal benefits if the virus forces them to stay home.

This story was produced with the financial support of Facebook and the Canadian Press News Fellowship

Denise Paglinawan and Nicole Thompson, The Canadian Press

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