Premier Dennis King has declared a state of public health emergency.
King made the announcement during a 5 p.m. news conference where chief public health officer Dr. Heather Morrison along with members of the provincial cabinet provided an update related to the coronavirus (COVID-19 strain).
Before declaring the state of public health emergency, King acknowledged the work facing everyone in the coming days.
“Everyone has seen COVID-19 has impacted the world and P.E.I. is not immune. These are unprecedented health and economic and social times. In the early stages of this situation we have felt some tough days and I believe we can expect the road forward to be equally as challenging and difficult.”
Declaring the state of public health emergency ensures the province can take all appropriate actions to prepare and mitigate the impacts of the virus, said Morrison.
“We want to do what we can and do it now to make sure we protect Islanders and that we have the ability to do so.”
With the state of public health emergency, Morrison will be able to order Islanders to refrain from attending any public gatherings, align resources to where they are needed most and manage hospitals and other health-care facilities and ambulance services.
As for businesses like bars or restaurants being forced to close down, they should start to look into it, she said.
"I think everything is on the table in at this time in terms of what we need to do protect the health of Islanders."
During the news conference, King also announced the creation of an initial $25-million emergency contingency fund to support Island workers, including the self-employed, and small businesses who are affected by COVID-19.
Along with the fund, the government is establishing a toll-free number to help employers address their concerns and needs.
That number is 1-866-222-1751 and will operate from 8 a.m. - 8 p.m. daily starting March 17.
Criteria for the fund aren't yet established, but will likely be finalized within the next 48-72 hours and the hope is to get money into the hands of Islanders as soon as possible, said Matt MacKay, Minister of Economic Growth, Tourism and Culture.
“This is not money for later, this is money for now, so this money is here to help businesses, employees, employers now that are in need.”
The government says it is actively monitoring supply chains, exploring compensation plans for childcare staff and cancelling all government initiated public consultation sessions.
As of today, there are no impacts to those supply chains said Bloyce Thompson, Minister of Agriculture, Justice and Public Saftey.
The province is also moving all provincial government departments and agencies to essential services. Notifications have begun and will continue into tomorrow and all provincial employees who can work from home will be directed to do so.
More details to come later online and in our print and e-editions.