Ontario government faces calls for permanent sick day program to combat monkeypox

TORONTO – The Ontario government faced a call Tuesday to establish a permanent 10-day paid sick leave program in light of rising monkeypox cases.

Public Health Ontario reported 326 confirmed cases of monkeypox in the province as of Monday, up from 288 on Thursday.

Those numbers came as Opposition New Democrats said a permanent paid sick leave program would limit the spread of monkeypox and other infectious diseases.

NDP lawmaker Kristyn Wong-Tam said the isolation recommendation for those sick with monkeypox may be 21 days or potentially longer.

She said the government should introduce a permanent program to allow workers to take 10 paid sick days for infectious diseases and an additional 14 sick days during public health emergencies.

“Infection rates (of monkeypox) are increasing,” he told a news conference on Tuesday. “That is why we are sounding the alarm bells that we cannot risk remaining silent.”

Ontario currently has a pandemic program that offers workers three days of paid sick leave for absences related to COVID-19, such as testing, vaccination, isolation, or caring for family members who are sick with the virus. The government recently extended that program through the end of March 2023.

Public Health Ontario said the majority of the province’s confirmed cases of monkeypox are currently in Toronto. He said 11 people with the virus have been hospitalized, including two patients who have been treated in intensive care units. No deaths have been reported in Ontario due to monkeypox.

Public health officials say most cases are among men who report intimate contact with men, but say anyone can get monkeypox.

Wong-Tam said the spread of monkeypox is affecting the lives of his constituents in Toronto.

“Church and Wellesley Village was at the epicenter of the HIV/AIDS pandemic, and experienced immense damage to high street businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic,” he said, referring to Toronto’s gay community.

“The last thing local small businesses need is another pandemic. By refusing, once again, to provide adequate and permanent paid sick days to Ontarians in the face of the growing public health emergency of monkeypox, (Premier Doug) Ford is failing to protect people’s health.” .

A spokesman for Ontario Labor Minister Monte McNaughton said in a statement that the government has been monitoring the situation but has not made a decision on a new monkeypox sick leave policy.

The World Health Organization declared monkeypox a global health emergency on Saturday. The organization’s director general said the disease has spread to more than 70 countries.

Dr. Samantha Green, a family physician at St. Michael’s Hospital’s Sumac Creek Health Center in Toronto, said creating an adequate and permanent paid sick day program is an important public health measure to help stop the spread of monkeypox.

“We know that monkeypox is an infectious disease that spreads through person-to-person contact, and ensuring workers can stay home while they are sick is vital if we are to slow the spread and support the recovery process for workers. patients,” he said during the press conference with the NDP’s Wong-Tam.

Legislating paid sick days through labor standards is the most effective way to contain the spread of all kinds of infectious diseases in a workplace.

Dr. Eileen de Villa, Toronto’s medical officer of health, said the city had administered about 11,000 monkeypox vaccinations as of Tuesday. She said interest in vaccination increased after the World Health Organization declared the disease a global health emergency.

Ontario’s chief medical officer of health, Dr. Kieran Moore, recently said that monkeypox will likely be around for “many months” due to its long incubation period.

The virus generally does not spread easily and is transmitted through prolonged close contact via respiratory droplets, direct contact with broken skin or body fluids, or through contaminated clothing or bedding.

Common symptoms include skin rash, oral and genital lesions, and swollen lymph nodes.

Monkeypox disease comes from the same family of viruses that causes smallpox, which the World Health Organization declared eradicated worldwide in 1980. Smallpox vaccines have been shown to be effective in combating the smallpox virus. monkey pox.

– with files from Holly McKenzie-Sutter.

This report from The Canadian Press was first published on July 26, 2022.

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