TORONTO — Ontario is expected to extend its state of emergency by another month on Tuesday, as a small group of politicians gathered at the provincial legislature to pass the bill.

Premier Doug Ford said the fight against COVID-19 is not over and it’s too soon to lift restrictions imposed during the pandemic.

The legislature began an emergency session Tuesday afternoon to extend the order, which closed non-essential businesses and child-care centres, by another 28 days. The government has not yet said whether school closures will be extended beyond the current end date of May 4.

“We are still facing a clear and present danger,” Ford said. “As long as COVID-19 continues to spread; as long as our seniors and those most vulnerable are at risk — Ontario must remain in the position to take any and all actions necessary to fight this virus.”

In previous such sittings, a limited number of politicians have been required to attend in order to respect the need for physical distancing.

On Tuesday, 28 legislators were present including 14 members of the Progressive Conservative government, eight New Democrats, two Liberals, two Independent members and the house Speaker.

The government was also expected to pass a number of other pieces of legislation to change some regulations for school boards, post-secondary institutions and municipalities during the pandemic.

NDP Leader Andrea Horwath said her party would support the Progressive Conservative government’s bill to extend the state of emergency and would help speed its passage.

However, she urged the Tories to increase supports for people in financial need who aren’t eligible for federal income support.

“The fact is, people were hoping the legislation would rescue them from sleepless nights and payments they just can’t afford,” she said. “It doesn’t. If Ontario doesn’t do more to help, some people will go hungry.”

Horwath also urged the province to take further action to protect residents of long-term care homes, where 93 outbreaks of COVID-19 have been reported.

The government should immediately stop workers from being employed in multiple homes and boost their wages, said Horwath. 

“We have to pay them well enough so that they don’t need to moonlight at a second facility,” she said. “No exceptions.”

Meanwhile, Ontario reported 483 new COVID-19 cases Tuesday and 43 new deaths.

That brings the province to a total of 7,953 cases, including 334 deaths and 3,568 cases that have been resolved.

Tuesday’s numbers represented an increase of 6.5 per cent over Monday’s total, continuing a relatively low growth rate over the past several days.

The province has said it will do 8,000 tests daily by Wednesday, but just under 5,000 were completed in the last 24 hours.

Premier Doug Ford expressed frustration last week that Ontario has been testing for COVID-19 well below its capacity of 13,000 a day.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 14, 2020.

Shawn Jeffords, The Canadian Press

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