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Amazon site in Brampton, Ont., must close and all employees self-isolate, health officials order

An Amazon Canada facility in Brampton, Ont., has been effectively shut down and all employees ordered to self-isolate for two weeks amid an ongoing outbreak of COVID-19. 

"Just in the last few weeks, we've seen an acceleration of the transmission," said Dr. Lawrence Loh, the medical officer of health for Peel Region, of the site which employs thousands of people and has been detecting cases since October.

There have been more than 600 cases in total, with 240 identified in recent weeks, Loh told CBC News, reflecting "significant" growth.

High-risk exposure for everyone working at the 8050 Heritage Rd. site can't be ruled out, according to a media release from Peel on Friday.

The Toronto-area facility is in a "vulnerable community," according to Loh, who said having it shut it down was a difficult but necessary decision to protect essential workers and the surrounding community.

A spokesperson said Amazon will appeal the decision.

"We do not believe the data supports this closure," spokesperson Dave Bauer said. 

Effective Saturday

Broadly, the order requires everyone at the facility to self-isolate for two weeks, effective 12:01 a.m. Saturday.

It also allows Amazon Canada time to consider additional operational changes recommended by Peel Public Health that may help prevent outbreaks in future, officials explained.

Loh says the company has been making strides toward putting in more space for distancing and personal protective equipment.

Bauer said Amazon is "doing everything we can to support [employees] and keep them safe through the pandemic."

WATCH | COVID-19 hitting workplaces hard in Peel Region:

Ontario’s Peel Region, just west of Toronto, has long been a hotspot for COVID-19, but the high number of warehouses and transportation facilities may be partly to blame. 2:15

"Nothing's more important than the health and safety of our employees and the communities we serve," he 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."

He said the closure may have a short-term affect on Canadian customers but the company would work to recover quickly.

Amazon outlined various safety measures it has taken at the Brampton facility, including testing all employees twice in the past three weeks, hiring private busses to transport employees, providing sick pay for up to 14 days for employees self-isolating and investing $17 million in COVID-19 safety measures and equipment. 

The company also plans to pay all the employees for the time they spend in quarantine.

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