TORONTO — The Ontario government will close all publicly funded schools until April 5 in response to the COVID-19 outbreak.
Schools will not re-open for two weeks following March break as a “precautionary measure,” Education Minister Stephen Lecce said Thursday.
“As we head into March break, it is clear that there will be increased travel and exposure to the virus as students and their families travel,” Lecce told reporters at a press conference at Queen’s Park.
“I want every parent and family to know, with confidence, when their child returns to school, they will be in a safe and healthy environment.”
Lecce said the decision recommended by Ontario’s chief medical officer of health and the government’s “command table,” which is leading the response to COVID-19.
The virus has infected 59 people in Ontario, including one infant. Another 536 cases are under investigation.
Students will be expected to continue learning while schools are closed, Lecce said Thursday. He could not immediately provide details about how that will work.
“There is a plan,” he said. “It is being finalized.”
“It is an extraordinary time.”
He also asked for employers to be flexible with parents who have to take care of their children during this time.
“It is an extraordinary time. We are asking for a sense of compassion by all parties.”
Ontario’s chief medical officer of health made other recommendations Thursday. He said:
- Events expecting more than 1,000 attendees should be cancelled,
- Parents should avoid taking their children to crowded public venues like malls and museums,
- Non-essential travel should be cancelled.
The risk to Ontarians is still low, Dr. David Williams said, but it’s “not low” for people who travel outside the country.
That recommendation contradicts a comment made by the premier earlier Thursday.
Ford was asked in the morning if families should cancel March break travel plans in light of the pandemic.
“Go away,” he said at the time. “Enjoy yourself.”