TORONTO -- Ontario is giving hospitals across the province sweeping powers over staffing temporarily to respond to the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. 

The provincial government announced a state of emergency earlier this week, and on Saturday night it said that it would use the declaration to allow hospital to override collective agreements.

"The province is taking decisive action to ensure we can continue to be responsive and nimble as the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases grows," Solicitor General Syliva Jones said.

"While normal protocols are important in routine times, these extraordinary steps will ensure our health sector workers are there, where and when they are needed.”

Hospitals can now move staff between locations and to COVID-19 assessment centres without notice.

It also allows hospitals to assign non-bargaining unit employees, volunteers or contract employees to do bargaining unit work.

Hospital can now change the scheduling of work or shift assignments, as well as defer or cancel vacations, absences or other leaves

They can also start employing extra part-time or temporary staff or contractors.

“When utilized by hospitals, these redeployment plans temporarily supersede the provisions of a collective agreement, including lay-off, seniority/service or bumping provisions,” the government said in a statement.

“These measures would allow for the redeployment of staff to address the containment of COVID-19 without restriction or delay.

The order is valid for 14 days unless revoked or renews, the province said.