Ontario government has a coronavirus outbreak plan but won’t reveal details

Ontario Minister of Health Christine Elliott speaks as Federal Minister of Health Patty Hajdu and Toronto Mayor John Tory listen at a news conference on COVID-19 in Toronto on Feb, 11, 2020. On March 9, Elliott said the province has coronavirus plan in place and “we will escalate as and when we see the need to do so.” Her response was criticized by opposition MPPs.

The Ontario government is keeping tight-lipped on contingency plans for a potential COVID-19 outbreak, with Health Minister Christine Elliott saying hospitals will find ways to cope and Finance Minister Rod Phillips saying he’ll adjust his upcoming budget according to circumstances.

But opposition parties say Elliott, in particular, should be laying out potential responses in more detail so the public can prepare for what may be coming. The province has 34 cases and British Columbia has just announced its first death.

“We do have a plan in place and we will escalate as and when we see the need to do so,” the health minister said Monday, noting hospitals will co-operate by shifting resources as needed to cope with any influx of patients but providing no details.

With the novel coronavirus situation worsening around the globe, opposition leaders maintained Ontarians need specifics so they know what to expect and can get their heads around it now.

“I don’t see the minister of health laying out a plan as to what’s going to happen should this virus take hold and start to spread significantly in Ontario because we know the hospitals are hanging by a thread already,” NDP Leader Andrea Horwath said.

“We are in a hallway medicine crisis and what we need to hear from the government is exactly how those hospitals are going to be able to address an influx of more patients because of the COVID-19 virus.”

Green Leader Mike Schreiner echoed those concerns.

“Public health is doing a good job and doing a pretty good job keeping us informed and being transparent about where things are with the virus,” he told reporters.

“We now need the Ford government to step up and be transparent with people about what the contingency planning is just to reassure the public that we do have a plan in place,” he added.

“The more transparent you are with people the more they’re going to react in ways that best help the system.”

Public health officials have indicated they may have to consider a clampdown on mass gatherings at some point.

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