Tuesday, March 24, 2020

What are Ontario's "essential services"?

It's interesting to see what businesses the Ontario government consider to be "essential services", which will be exempt from the coming lockdown against COVID-19.
Pharmacies and supermarkets, fine, I can see that. But convenience stores and "other similar retailers" could mean almost anything. Liquor stores and beer stores? I can maybe see why you'd want to keep them open, but to call them "essential services" is a bit rich. And cannabis stores? The same but more so.
Newspapers, yes, I get that. Taxis and ride-sharing services, sure. Gas stations, OK. Phone and internet services, banking and financial services. But the essential services start getting less obviously essential as we go through hardware stores, pet stores, laundromats, hotels and motels, dry cleaners, car and bike repair shops, construction workers and real estate agents. Restaurants seem to make the cut as "essential" these days, although I am not sure if this extends to high-end dining establishments, coffee shops, doughnut establishments - I think it probably does, and the further down the list of clearly non-essential and junk food sources you go, the less justifiable it starts to look.
And then there's the inclusion of businesses that "supply other essential businesses with the supports, supplies, systems or services". Which is ... pretty much everything, no?
It may have been easier to specify what should close. Dress shops, maybe. Book shops, galleries, tanning salons, non-essential jewellery stores.
And, perhaps most glaringly, the blanket permission for construction sites to remain open and working during this health crisis, many with hundreds of employees working in close proximity to each other, despite the vociferous condemnation of the main construction unions. Some construction companies are downing tools anyway, in the perfectly reasonable interests of health and safety.
Don't get me wrong: I'd hate to be the one having to come up with the list. But it does focus the mind on what we think of as essential.

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