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The head of a group representing small business owners says the Ontario government's latest round of province-wide lockdowns will be "devastating" and warns it will lead to the closure of thousands of businesses.
Ontario Premier Doug Ford announced on Wednesday that the province will be put under a state of emergency and stay-at-home order beginning at 12:01 a.m. on Thursday for at least four weeks.
"Unless it's for an essential reason, please stay home because the situation is extremely serious," Ford said at a press conference.
"What we do, until we start achieving mass immunization, will be the difference between life and death for thousands of people."
The new lockdown will mean that non-essential retailers will close for the second time since the start of the year. Non-essential retailers will be allowed to offer curbside pickup to customers between 6 a.m. and 9 p.m. Big box retailers will be allowed to remain open, but will not be able to sell non-essential goods.
"This is going to be devastating," Dan Kelly, the president of the Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB), said in an interview. According to the CFIB, 74,000 businesses in Ontario considered permanent closure after the first two shutdowns. He expects that number will be more after a third round of lockdowns.
"Thousands and thousands of firms will perish as a direct result of this lockdown... When you haven't had much of an income for a year, a strong wind could knock the business down, never mind another month of lockdowns."
The CFIB is calling on the government to make an "immediate pivot" on its vaccine strategy and prioritize essential workers at factory and warehouse facilities where there have been COVID-19 outbreaks.
Ford announced that the province is in the midst of organizing mobile vaccination teams to offer vaccines in hot spot regions, including at-high-risk workplaces that are still open "for the sake of our supply chain." Ontario will also deploy mobile vaccine clinics at shelters, residential buildings, community centres, churches, mosques, synagogues, temples and other faith-based locations in high risk neighbourhoods.
The CFIB also wants the province to increase the use of rapid testing in order to allow companies to reopen safely, as well as increase the financial supports provided to shuttered businesses.
"It's not their fault that they are locked down again," Kelly said. "If we want Ontarians to have jobs to come back to, we're going to need to provide economic supports to small businesses to have more of them remain open."
The Ontario Chamber of Commerce also urged the province to offer further financial support for the businesses affected by the third wave of the COVID-19 pandemic.
"We recognize the restrictions brought in today are to help save lives and curtail the spread of the virus," Ontario Chamber of Commerce CEO Rocco Rossi said in a statement. "However, in the absence of further supports, new restrictions will simply devastate Ontario's business community. An expedited vaccine roll-out prioritizing essential workers who cannot work from home is critical to preventing these stops and starts that are so damaging for business."
Alicja Siekierska is a senior reporter at Yahoo Finance Canada. Follow her on Twitter @alicjawithaj.