Ontario reported the first case of the deadly virus in Canada
A year ago today, we were presented with one of the most difficult challenges in our history with the confirmation of the first case of COVID-19 in Ontario. The rapid spread of the virus through the province, the country and around the world would lead the World Health Organization to declare COVID-19 a global pandemic in March 2020.
Since then, Ontario has tragically lost 5,846 lives to this deadly virus. “We mourn the passing of each and every person and offer our deepest condolences to their families, friends and colleagues.” Said Premier Doug Ford
Since the start of the pandemic, the health and safety of Canadians has been and remains Prime Minister’s top priority. Ontario was one of the first provinces to declare an emergency in response to COVID-19 to protect individuals, families and workers.
Within weeks, we established an integrated Provincial Lab Network among public health, hospital and community labs, to create unprecedented testing capacity. Ontario is now leads the country in daily testing volumes per capita and has completed over 9 million tests to date – more tests than all the other Canadian provinces and territories combined.
When the world was facing a shortage of personal protective equipment (PPE) and medical supplies, Ontario launched the Ontario Together initiative to mobilize our manufacturing sectors and build domestic capacity. An investment of $50 million to help businesses retool and support the production of made-in-Ontario supplies and PPE, including ventilators and N95 masks.
That Ontario government further invested an additional $2.5 billion more in hospitals this year, the largest year-over-year percentage increase in a decade, including the investment in the creation of more than 3,100 new beds in hospitals and alternate health facilities across the province.
Late last year, a beacon of hope emerged on the horizon with the approval of two COVID-19 vaccines. In response, our government launched a three-phase COVID-19 vaccination plan and received our first doses of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines.
To date, Ontario has vaccinated over 285,000 frontline health care workers, long-term care, First Nations elder care and retirement home residents, staff and essential caregivers. They’ve completed the first round of vaccinations ahead of schedule in long-term care homes in regions with the highest rates of COVID-19. Soon, Ontario will have capacity to vaccinate nearly 40,000 people a day, and even triple and quadruple that capacity over the coming weeks dependent on supply from the federal government.
COVID-19 has had a devastating impact on businesses of all sizes. In response, our government is providing significant financial support through a variety of programs to help them through the Provincewide Shutdown. We offered rebates on property tax and energy bills, provided funding to offset the cost of PPE, and introduced the new Ontario Small Business Support Grant which provides eligible business owners a minimum of $10,000 and up to $20,000 to help them through these tough times. We are confident that our economy will come back with a vengeance when this crisis is over.
Until vaccines are widely available, we are urging all Ontarians to continue to follow all public health advice. Simply put, we must all continue to stay home, stay safe, and save lives.