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Social distancing must be a priority for all sectors in Ontario: OPSEU’s Thomas

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March 16, 2020

TORONTO – OPSEU President Warren (Smokey) Thomas says governments and business should immediately take measures aimed at ensuring social distancing is job one in curbing the spread of COVID-19.

Thomas praised some of the measures that Premier Doug Ford announced Monday, but says more must be done now before we are past the tipping point.

“Things like job-protected leave to employees in isolation or quarantine will make a huge difference, especially when it comes to household and individuals’ economics,” said Thomas. “But this is much bigger. In order to get through this without damaging lives on a mass scale, I am calling for a complete shutdown of non-essential services in Ontario with full pay.”

Thomas believes this, along with making sure everyone follows social distancing, are the only ways to limit the spread of COVID-19.

 “Those whose jobs can be done from home, should be done from home. Those who provide essential services must be given every support necessary including safe government-funded childcare. Workers whose jobs are deemed non-essential, should be provided with paid leave,” says Thomas.

“Front-line health care professionals have told me very clearly that social distancing must be the priority across all sectors of the province. Time is of the essence, better a little pain now than a lot of pain later.”

Ford’s announcement that “everything is on the table” when it comes to addressing COVID-19 is also encouraging, says Thomas.

“If this is true,” he says, “then essential workers who do not have the luxury of staying home or working remotely – the heroes who are keeping Ontarians safe, should be taken care of completely.”

“We must allow our essential health care and other workers to do their jobs without worry or interference. Worrying about how their children will be watched over, or how they will pay for the service is an extra burden our professionals don’t need.” 

Finally, Thomas says national leaders should consider shutting down stock exchanges as another measure to limit the stress of COVID-19.

“Having to watch your life savings, personal investments, and pension plans go down the drain is certainly demoralizing,” said Thomas.

“Sure, the economic challenges will still be there when this pandemic is over, but the focus of government right now has to be to reduce stress and establish confidence. Having real time and constant reminders from the stock exchange will only add to people’s stress.”

Thomas is concerned that there are profiteers looking to take advantage of a once-in-a-generation-event.

“Nobody should be profiting from this crisis. Whether it’s Lysol wipes, toilet paper, or stocks, we have to all be in this together.”

For more information:  Warren (Smokey) Thomas  613-329-1931