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Ontario Premier Doug Ford is in isolation after a member of his staff who had been in close contact with him tested positive for COVID-19.

Mr. Ford tested negative for the virus on Tuesday, but he will remain in isolation in Toronto, his office said.

“Immediately upon learning that this staff member was even at risk of exposure, the Premier left the legislature to be tested. While his test results have returned negative, the Premier will follow all public health advice for close contacts of positive cases, including isolating. He will do so in Toronto,” said a statement on Tuesday night from Ivana Yelich, Mr. Ford’s director of media relations.

The statement said members of the Premier’s office staff who were close contacts of the person who tested positive will also isolate.

The office is seeking additional guidance from Toronto Public Health on all precautions the Premier and other staff must follow, Ms. Yelich said.

“The Premier will continue leading this government’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic while in isolation, including briefings with officials and communicating with the public,” Ms. Yelich said.

Mr. Ford, who has not spoken publicly since Friday or appeared in Question Period this week, has faced a backlash since announcing a series of new COVID-19 measures last week that baffled experts. They warned that the government was doing too little to stop the virus from growing exponentially and overwhelming hospital intensive-care units.

The province also said Wednesday it will present a paid sick-leave program for essential workers in a matter of days, following repeated calls for it to act on the issue. Government House Leader Paul Calandra says the province hopes to address “gaps” in a federal benefit including eligibility, reducing wait times for receiving funds, the amount of funding available and time off to get vaccinated. The government rejected Opposition motions on paid sick leave earlier this week and said it was waiting to see if Monday’s federal budget included any changes to the program.

The Premier received his first dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine at a Toronto pharmacy on April 9.

Ontario is reporting 4,212 new cases of COVID-19 on Wednesday and 32 more deaths linked to the virus. Health Minister Christine Elliott says there are 1,249 new cases in Toronto, 771 in Peel Region, and 386 in York Region. She also says there are 276 new cases in Hamilton and 214 in Durham Region.

The Ministry of Health says 2,335 people are in hospital with the novel coronavirus. It reports 790 people are in intensive care and 566 are on a ventilator.Ontario reports that 136,695 doses of a COVID-19 vaccine were administered since Tuesday’s daily update.

- With a file from The Canadian Press

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