TORONTO -- Ontario will be extending construction hours for essential projects as the number of COVID-19 cases in the province grows.

Speaking at Queen’s Park on Wednesday alongside Minister of Health Christine Elliott and Minister of Labour, Training and Skills Development Monte McNaughton, Ontario Premier Doug Ford said the decision was made in order to accelerate projects related to critical health infrastructure, including assessment centres and temporary facilities to deal with the pandemic.

“We are extending hours of construction to help get these projects built faster, to help get hospitals built faster, to get more beds and more capacity built in the system,” Ford said. “We have to be ready for any scenario and the health and safety of our essential workers is always top of mind during this pandemic.”

The new order will allow companies to staff construction sites 24 hours a day. It also makes adjustments to local noise bylaws in order to accommodate the work.

The Progressive Conservative government also said the extended hours will give managers the ability to stagger shifts and limit the number of workers on each site.

In order to ensure safety at the construction sites, the Ford government will also be asking recently-retired safety inspectors if they are willing to return to work. Additionally, the province will be doubling the capacity of its Health and Safety call centre from 25 to 50 phone lines.

As well, the government plans on redeploying more than 30 employment standards officers to help businesses understand the new safety guidelines and will deploy 30 more specialists to support employers and workers in the field.

“If you are one of the unsung heroes that is going about your work in your essential business, I won’t you to know this, our government is doing everything to keep you safe during this pandemic,” McNaughton said. “That means more inspectors, more inspections, more phone lines and more people to take calls – no stone is going unturned.”

McNaughton added that about 5,000 inspections of businesses and construction sites took place last month and “thousands more” are taking place now.

“When warranted, they are shutting workplaces down,” he added.

Some construction sites were closed last weekend after Ford slashed the list of essential businesses down to 44 categories. However, sites related to critical projects, such as provincial infrastructure, transit, energy, or day-to-day maintenance are expected to continue.

If a worker feels they are unsafe in their environment, the government has said they should call 1-877-202-0008.