TORONTO -- Ontario is ordering all non-essential businesses to shut down in an effort to help prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Premier Doug Ford made the announcement Monday afternoon about a week after declaring a state of emergency in the province.

The order will come into effect on March 24 at 11:59 p.m. and will remain in place for at least two weeks.

“The next 36 hours will give non-essential businesses the chance to adapt and prepare,” the premier said.

FULL LIST: What's considered essential? The services and workplaces that can stay open

"This was a very tough decision but it is the right decision. This is not the time for half-measures. This decision was not made lightly. The gravity of this order does not escape me. But as I said from day one, we will and must take all the steps to slow the spread of COVID-19."

The list of businesses that the province deems as essential was released by the government on Monday evening, a day earlier than expected.

“The health and safety of every Ontarian must come first and that is why we are taking these important steps. It means food will remain on the shelve. It means Ontarians will still have access to their medications and essential products. It means the power will still stay on and telecommunications will continue to run. But it also means that every Ontarian must do their part.”

Ford stressed that the order does not mean all businesses need to shut down completely, as some may be able to continue operations from outside their facilities. He also noted that the province is looking into enforcement measures for those who don’t comply with the order.

“If they want to break that, well there will be consequences,” he said. “We are all in this together…do the responsible thing and close your shop.”

LCBO and Beer Store to remain open

A senior government source has confirmed to CTV News Toronto that both the LCBO and the Beer Store will remain open during the 14-day forced closure of businesses.

The decision was made during a cabinet meeting at Queen’s Park, during which categories of businesses were deemed essential or non-essential.

The LCBO and the Beer Store, the source said, are generally viewed as selling grocery-type goods, which is why they will remain open.

Most construction sites to remain open

The province has laid out which construction sites are deemed essential, with a number of projects slated to stay open despite the closure of other non-essential businesses.

The construction sites that will be unaffected by the closures are:

  • Construction projects and services associated with the healthcare sector, including new facilities, expansions, renovations and conversion of spaces that could be repurposed for health care space;
  • Construction projects and services required to ensure safe and reliable operations of critical provincial infrastructure, including transit, transportation, energy and justice sectors beyond the day-to-day maintenance;
  • Construction work and services, including demolition services, in the industrial, commercial, institutional and residential sectors;
  • Construction work and services that supports health and safety environmental rehabilitation projects

Premier Ford added that if a construction worker feels unsafe, they should leave the site.

Doug Ford

Premier Ford's government has also determined that newspaper publishers, radio and television broadcasters and telecommunications providers are also an essential service.

Last week, the provincial government banned the gathering of more than 50 people, including events, parades and services within places of worship until March 31. The province also ordered the closure of all facilities, including those that provide indoor recreation programs, public libraries, theatres, cinemas, concert venues and all bars and restaurants except to provide takeout and delivery services.

The newest announcement comes as Ontario experiences the largest spike in COVID-19 cases to date, bringing the provincial total to more than 500.