Mayor Watson declares state of emergency in Ottawa over COVID-19

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Mayor Jim Watson during a largely remote session of city council Wednesday morning.

The City of Ottawa has entered into a state of emergency to allow for a “more nimble” response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Mayor Jim Watson made the emergency declaration at a largely remote session of city council Wednesday morning, as the bulk of councillors participated from afar as part of efforts to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus in Ottawa.

Among the powers given to the city under a state of emergency is a “more flexible” approach to procurement, Watson said, which allows city manager Steve Kanellakos and his team to rapidly purchase equipment needed for the city’s first responders and front-line health-care workers.

As of Tuesday morning there were 25 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Ottawa with another 13 cases under investigation. But Dr. Vera Etches, Ottawa’s medical officer of health, has said there could be thousands of untested cases in the community and has advised strict physical distancing practices to help curb the spread of the virus in the capital.

Ottawa’s state of emergency declaration follows similar actions from the Ontario government, which ordered the closure of all non-essential businesses in the province as of Tuesday night.