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Some Ontario child-care centres will re-open to help frontline workers: province

Ontario is letting some childcare centres stay open to help healthcare and frontline workers during the COVID-19 pandemic, the government says.

Centres should be open by end of this week, education minister says

Ontario Education Minister Stephen Lecce is announcing today that some childcare centres in Ontario will be allowed to stay open to help frontline workers during the COVID-19 pandemic. (CBC)

Ontario is letting some child-care centres re-open in order to help healthcare and frontline workers during the COVID-19 pandemic, the government says.

Education Minister Stephen Lecce says he hopes to have centres open by the end of this week for "thousands of young people."

Doctors, nurses, paramedics, firefighters, police, and correctional officers are among those who can access the emergency child care, the government said in a statement Sunday.

When asked whether people like grocery store workers are eligible for child care, Lecce said "step one" is about helping healthcare workers and first-responders.

"I accept there's other ... workers within our economy that are critical to the supply chain, and we will continue to discuss that with cabinet and with stakeholders on the way forward," he said.

Centres will be open in close proximity to hospitals, Lecce said, working with municipal partners and First Nation leaders.

Lecce says they will have the capacity for tens of thousands of child-care spaces.

'Strict plans' to prevent virus spread

The province ordered all licensed child-care centres to close as part of the state of emergency declared earlier this week.

Lecce said the centres that reopen will have "strict plans in place" to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

The centres won't have more than 50 people in a space, and pre-screening will be done for workers, he said.

They are working to have "flexibility" on hours, Lecce said.

People who do work "essential to the delivery of core services in a municipality," will also be able to access child care, "as determined by the municipality," according to a government list.

"We need to help our nurses, doctors and frontline care workers to be able to focus on protecting the health and well-being of all Ontarians," said Health Minister Christine Elliot in a statement.

"By allowing select child-care centres to open their doors during these challenging times, our province's courageous frontline workers can rest assured knowing that their families are also being looked after." 

Once the emergency child-care centres open, a list of locations will be available on ontario.ca/coronavirus

The government is also sending out a letter to parents Sunday about their education plan in the coming weeks, discussing graduation requirements, cleaning practices, learning materials, and staff protection, Leccee said. 

According to the government, others who are eligible for child care include people who do necessary support work and those who do "work of a critical nature in their service area or community, as determined by the Minister of Education or his delegate in consultation with the relevant service system manager or First Nation".

People working in the open child-care centres and certain other Ministry of the Solicitor General employees are also eligible.

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