TORONTO -- Ontario is expected to extend its COVID-19 state of emergency to the beginning of June, as retail stores were allowed to partly reopen and Premier Doug Ford suggested family visits were all right.
The provincial legislature will sit Tuesday and is expected to extend the province's state of emergency to June 2, while also holding question period again.
The state of emergency is dealt with separately from the emergency orders, recently extended to May 19, which cover closures of bars and restaurants except for take-out and delivery, theatres, outdoor amenities such as playgrounds, and child care centres.
Ontario has previously announced that publicly funded schools will be closed until at least May 31, and Ford said that news on child care centres and schools is coming early next week.
In the meantime, when Ford was asked Monday if the concept of two-household bubbles would come to Ontario soon, as it has to other provinces beginning to reopen, he said two of his daughters who don't live with him had already visited.
"There was six of us, direct family, none of the husbands, boyfriends, no one came, just themselves and I think if we can keep it to as small as possible gatherings that would be very helpful," Ford said.
"From the chief medical officer right now he still wants to keep it immediate family. I have two girls living with me, two not living with me, so I had two more there. When it comes to seniors and our parents, use your best judgment."
The province's own novel coronavirus website, however, advises no contact outside a household.
When asked if the advice had changed, a spokeswoman for Ford said they expect Ontarians to "use their best judgment when interacting with individuals from outside their household."
Stores in Ontario were allowed to reopen Monday for curbside pickup and delivery, a move Ford has said will allow thousands of people to return to work.
The measure announced last week is meant to help ramp the economy back up after the pandemic caused unprecedented job losses. According to data released Friday by Statistics Canada, 689,200 Ontarians lost their jobs in April, in addition to the 403,000 the agency says were lost in March.
Garden centres and nurseries were allowed to fully reopen on Friday, and hardware stores could do the same on Saturday.
Provincial parks also reopened Monday, though beaches, camping areas and playgrounds will remain closed and physical distancing must be maintained.
Ontario reported 308 new cases of COVID-19 Monday -- a 1.5 per cent increase over Sunday -- and 35 more deaths. That brings the province to a total of 20,546 cases, including 1,669 deaths and 15,131 resolved cases.
The number of people in hospital with COVID-19 rose, as did those on ventilators, though the number of patients in intensive care dropped by one.
Nearly 14,000 tests were completed in the 24 hours up to 4 p.m. Sunday, which is lower than the government's stated goal of 16,000, though it has said volumes tend to be lower on the weekends.
At the legislature on Tuesday, only 42 out of Ontario's 124 members will be allowed in the chamber at any given time, and they will vote on both the motion to extend the state of emergency and a bill that makes pandemic-related changes to various acts.
Unanimous consent from the opposition parties is expected so that votes on all stages of the bill will happen quickly, said a statement from the office of the government house leader.
Politicians have also agreed to holding regular question periods, with sessions to be held Tuesday as well as May 19, 20, 26, 27, June 2 and 3.
The government is consulting with opposition parties about the possibility of extending sittings into the summer.
Members are also expected to agree to authorize virtual sittings of the finance committee so it can conduct four-week studies of the economic impacts of COVID-19 on various sectors, including tourism, culture and heritage, municipalities, construction and building, infrastructure, and small and medium businesses.
It is expected to wrap up the overall study by Oct. 8.
Ontario's budget watchdog projected Monday that the province's deficit will quadruple to $41 billion this year, the largest in its history, as the pandemic cuts revenues and leads to increased spending.
The government projected in a mini-budget in March that its plan for $7 billion in new spending and $10 billion in tax and other deferrals would see the deficit rise from $9 billion to a projected $20.5 billion for 2020-21.
The Financial Accountability Office said in a report Monday that assuming Ontario eases restrictions gradually through the summer, the deficit can be reduced to $25.3 billion in 2021-22 due to a strengthening economy.
But the office also said that sharply increased borrowing as a result of higher deficits will push Ontario's net debt-to-GDP ratio to a record 49.7 per cent this fiscal year -- much higher than the government's projection of 41.7 per cent.
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