Published Friday, March 12, 2021 2:57PM EST
Last Updated Friday, March 12, 2021 3:44PM EST
A large Amazon fulfillment Centre in Brampton has been ordered to cease all operations and all workers must self-isolate as part of an ongoing Peel Public Health investigation into COVID-19 cases inside.
Peel Public Health says effective at midnight Friday, the facility at 8050 Heritage Road, north of Steeles Avenue West, must shut down and all workers must self isolate until March 27.
“The current public health investigation has determined that high-risk exposure to COVID-19 for everyone working at Amazon Heritage cannot be ruled out,” Peel Public Health said in a statement.
“Over the past few weeks, the rate of COVID-19 infection across Peel has been decreasing while the rate inside this facility has been increasing significantly.”
Peel Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Lawrence Loh said 240 confirmed cases have been reported in recent weeks. Of those, 10 screened positive for a variant of concern.
Loh said 617 of the 5,000 workers at the fulfillment centre have tested positive for COVID-19 since October.
Earlier this week, the City of Brampton shut down part of a Brampton Transit bus route that served the facility due to COVID-19 cases involving nine bus operators.
Amazon was seen using chartered buses and coaches to transport their workers to the facility instead. Loh said there are no known linkages between the Amazon outbreak and the infections of bus operators along the 511 route that served the area surrounding the facility.
Loh told CP24 on Friday that the closure was necessary to “prevent a worse situation” in the wider community.
In a statement, a spokesperson for Amazon Canada said they will appeal the closure.
“We have done and are doing everything we can to support them and keep them safe through the pandemic, including regularly requiring 100% testing of all employees at our Heritage Road facility,” company spokesperson Dave Bauer said.
“We just completed our most recent round of mandatory testing with less than a one per cent positivity rate, and there appears to be little risk of spread within our facility. We do not believe the data supports this closure and we will appeal this decision.”
Bauer said the closure will have a short-term impact on customers. The company noted that those who are in quarantine will be paid.
Speaking to CP24 Friday night, Brampton Mayor Patrick Brown said public health made the right call.
"I know Amazon's a large international company, but no corporation is more important than the health and safety of our residents," he said.
"I'm glad public health made this bold move."
While cases in the community are headed in the right direction, Brown said that is not the case at Amazon. He added that the closure will further help the city bring down the number of infections.
"With Amazon being closed, frankly, it will help protect us from one of the remaining hotspots. And so, I think that's going to put us in a position where we're ready to reopen. A lot of our small businesses have been shuttered for far too long," he said.