Peel Public Health has ordered Amazon Canada to shut down a fulfilment centre in Brampton, Ont. and have all employees self-isolate for 14 days due to a persistent outbreak of COVID-19, a decision the retail giant says it plans to appeal.
Peel Public Health issued a news release on Friday afternoon that said an ongoing public health investigation was unable to rule out a high-risk of exposure to COVID-19 for everyone working at the Amazon facility, located at 8050 Heritage Road in Brampton.
"Over the past few weeks, the rate of COVID-19 infections across Peel has been decreasing while the rate inside this facility has been increasing significantly," the health unit said in a statement.
"Peel Public Health has been working closely with Amazon Canada to get this outbreak under control. This order will allow Amazon Canada further time to consider additional operational changes recommended by Peel Public Health that may help prevent outbreaks in future."
Peel Public Health issued the order under Section 22 of the Ontario Health Protection and Promotion Act. Employees will be required to self-isolate for two weeks unless they have tested positive for COVID-19 in the last 90 days and completed their isolation period as required by public health.
Amazon Canada spokesperson Dave Bauer said in an emailed statement that the company has been regularly testing employees at its facilities, and had reported a positivity rate of less than 1 per cent in its most recent round of mandatory testing. Employees at the facility had been tested twice in the past three weeks.
Bauer also added that "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," he said.
"This closure may have some short-term impact on our Canadian customers, but we will work to recover as quickly as possible."
Dr. Lawrence Loh, Peel's Medical Officer of Health, said in a statement that immediate action had to be taken to protect the essential workers employed at the warehouse.
"This Amazon facility is in a vulnerable community and employs thousands of people," Loh said.
"This was a difficult decision but a necessary one to stop further spread both in the facility and across our community. Essential workers remain the backbone of our community and I continue to urge both employers and policy makers to provide paid sick leave to anyone impacted by COVID-19."
Amazon employees can receive full pay for up to 14 days if they have to self-isolate because of COVID-19. The company also has a policy that says employees that have been placed into quarantine will be paid for the time they are in quarantine.
The Peel region has been in grey lockdown zone since March 8.
Alicja Siekierska is a senior reporter at Yahoo Finance Canada. Follow her on Twitter @alicjawithaj.