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All child care centres in Ontario can reopen Friday amid COVID-19 pandemic
TORONTO -- All child care centres in Ontario will be allowed to reopen as of Friday amid the COVID-19 pandemic – with public health guidelines put in effect.
Ontario Premier Doug Ford made the announcement Tuesday afternoon, stating that parents “need peace of mind while going back to work.”
“I want parents to know, we will take every measure necessary to keep the kids and the staff safe and healthy,” Ford said.
The premier said the public health guidelines will be the same as what is being followed at the emergency facilities that have remained open across the province for children of essential workers during the novel coronavirus pandemic.
“There will be limits on the amount of children at the centres at one time. There will be more screening and more cleaning,” he said.
The announcement comes as some parts of Ontario enter Stage 2 of the province’s restart phase on Friday.
Stage 2 means many people will be returning to work as a significant list of businesses, including restaurants, hair salons and malls, will be allowed to reopen in some of Ontario’s public health unit regions, excluding those in the Toronto-area and a few others.
Speaking alongside Ford, Ontario Education Minister Stephen Lecce said that providing child care for parents returning back to work on Friday is “critical to getting our economy back on track.”
“This plan was reviewed by the best public health and medical minds in Ontario, including experts at The Hospital for Sick Children,” Lecce said.
Along with limiting the number of people in each space and providing additional screening, Lecce said no visitors will be allowed and thorough cleanings will happen before opening and throughout each day.
“On top of this, we’re directing the removal of all toys that can easily spread germs,” he added.
All child care centres reopening must also have a “COVID-19 response plan if a child or a parent, or staff, is exposed to the virus,” Lecce said, adding that daily attendance records will need to be kept in order to support contact tracing.
The local medical officer of health must also be supportive of these reopening plans to “ensure the highest standards of safety,” the minister said.
Furthermore, as these facilities begin reopening, Lecce said the government recognizes that some parents may still feel uncomfortable about the current situation.
“We will protect these parents by ensuring that you do not lose your spot, nor be charged during this period of time,” he said.
“We believe we should have sufficient capacity to enable parents to utilize child care, should they need it, given if they are returning to work as part of Stage 2 of reopening.”
As facilities begin reopening, emergency child care centres in the province will close as of June 26, but, according to Lecce, essential workers will have first preference on spots.
Carolyn Ferns of the Ontario Coalition for Better Childcare said Tuesday’s announcement was completely inadequate.
“They’re asking child care workers to do the impossible; they’re asking us to be miracle workers,” she said.
“How you could provide a program with a reduced group size, increased screening and cleaning but no new money, either centres are not going to be able to open or parents are going to be expected to pay more.”
Lecce said that the province is offering “ancillary funds” to help pay for cleaning of child care centres and purchases of personal protective equipment.
Summer day camps also given the green light
Along with the announcement of child care centres reopening on Friday, the premier added that summer day camps will go ahead as well – with the same public health restrictions in effect.
Back on May 19, the provincial government announced that overnight camps would not be permitted to operate this summer due to the pandemic.