March 17, 2020 / 12:54 PM / 3 months ago

Canada's Ontario shuts down most public venues, declares state of emergency

TORONTO (Reuters) - Ontario, Canada’s most populous province, banned gatherings of more than 50 people and ordered the closure of bars and restaurants on Tuesday in a bid to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

“We must act decisively, we must not delay,” Premier Doug Ford said at a news conference. “Right now we need to do everything possible to stop the spread of COVID-19 ...to avoid overwhelming the healthcare system.”

The death toll in Canada rose to four on Monday. The number of infected jumped to 407 from the 341. Ontario accounts for nearly half of confirmed cases.

Ford also committed C$300 million to boost the province’s healthcare system, including to buy more protective gear and ventilators. He asked the federal government to take steps to support small businesses and workers.

Ottawa is expected to announce a major stimulus package soon. On Monday, Ontario said it would delay a March 25 budget and instead deliver an economic and fiscal update, given the impact of the coronavirus.

Reporting by Amran Abocar; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and David Gregorio

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