Ontario puts Toronto, Peel into lockdown; curbside retail, restaurants move to takeout only

WATCH: Ontario is pulling the trigger on tougher COVID-19 measures, as Toronto and Peel head back into lockdown next week as infections skyrocket. Mike Drolet explains the new rules on gatherings and businesses, the exceptions, and the reaction.

The Ontario government says it is moving COVID-19 hotspots Toronto and Peel Region into lockdown, shuttering businesses such as salons and gyms and moving restaurants to takeout only and malls to curbside pickup.

Schools and child-care centres will remain open.

Premier Doug Ford made the announcement alongside chief medical officer of health Dr. David Williams, health minister Christine Elliott and finance minister Rod Phillips at Queen’s Park.

Read more:
Here’s what you can and can’t do in Toronto, Peel Region during coronavirus lockdown stage

The new restrictions come into effect at 12:01 a.m. Monday, Nov. 23. There was no end date provided, though Ford mentioned seeing how the new measures work over the next four weeks.

“Further action is required to avoid the worst-case scenario,” Ford said. “I know this is difficult news today. This is not where we want to be. But I have faith that Ontario will weather this storm together.”

Under lockdown measures, grocery stores, supermarkets, convenience stores, hardware stores, department stores, alcohol providers, pharmacies, safety supply stores will be exempt from in-person shopping restrictions, but those businesses must cap the number of customers at 50 per cent of approved capacity.

Casinos, bingo halls and gaming establishments are closed, as are all indoor fitness facilities.

Weddings, funerals and religious services are capped at 10 people indoors and 10 people outdoors. Physical distancing must be adhered to.

All indoor social gatherings should be with members of the same household. Outdoor gatherings are capped at 10 people.

“Individuals who live alone, including seniors, may consider having exclusive, close contact with another household to help reduce the negative impacts of social isolation,” Elliott said.

For a full list of what you can and cannot do in Toronto and Peel, see here.

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Ford said the province will “spare no expense” to help businesses that are forced to closed. He went on to talk about the $600-million fund to help locked down businesses with fixed costs such as property taxes and hydro bills.

Phillips said businesses can apply for support on Monday through the following website, and money will begin to be distributed next week. Businesses in the red zone can apply for fixed-cost support as of Tuesday.

Elliott said Durham and Waterloo regions will move to the red-level, also as of Monday, joining York and Halton regions.

“I know this is not where we wanted to be,” she said.

Huron Perth Public Health, Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit, Southwestern Public Health and Windsor-Essex County Health Unit move to Restrict-level orange.

Chatham-Kent Public Health, Eastern Ontario Health Unit, Grey Bruce Health Unit, Kingston, Frontenac and Lennox & Addington Public Health, Peterborough Public Health, Thunder Bay District Health Unit move to Protect-level yellow.

The new measures are set to arrive as Ontario reported 1,418 new cases of COVID-19 on Friday, along with eight new deaths related to the virus.

Elliott said there were 400 new cases in Peel Region and 393 in Toronto. Chief Medical Officer of Health for Toronto Dr. Eileen De Villa said 45 per cent of all the city’s cases to date have occurred since the beginning of October.

“We know we can turn these numbers around. We also know what happens when this virus spreads out of control … this is not what I want to see for Toronto,” she continued.

Read more:
Ontario hits ‘critical’ 150 COVID-19 patients in ICU, may result in cancelled surgeries

Mayor John Tory also responded to the new measures saying he was in full support.

“We can’t have a healthy economy and build back better if people are sick,” he said. “We simply cannot have a health economy without healthy people.”

“Please stay home as much as possible,” Tory said. “Please stay home because it is the right thing to do.”

“Tough times don’t last, but tough people do,” Ford said.

Canadian Federation of Independent Business voices disappointment

Shortly after the announcement, the President and CEO of the Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB) voiced his disappointment to the province, saying “it appears we are not all in this together.”

“I need you to help me understand how closing thousands of small retailers won’t lead to crowds and panic buying from the few big box multi-nationals that are allowed to open,” Dan Kelly said in a tweet.

“And more than anything, I need you to adopt CFIB’s ‘Small Business First’ COVID retail strategy that would allow small ‘non-essential’ retailers to serve three customers at a time to help them salvage the critical Christmas season and have a shot at surviving the winter.”

De Villa said she was adding her voice to the others calling on the provincial and federal government to provide more direct support for small businesses and people who need to work to pay bills or who may not have money set aside for a “rainy day.”

Ford asked Ontario residents to avoid panic buying, especially in hotspots.

“There’s no need to buy more than you need for a week or two,” he said. Ford also pleaded with residents to buy from local stores versus large-scale online corporate retailers.

When asked about the possibility of these restrictions being “the nail in the coffin” for several small businesses, Tory said, “Saying I’m sorry implies that we’re doing something wrong. We’re trying to do something right.”

“I’ve repeated often today that a healthy economy requires healthy people and if we let this get to the stage where all the business owners, all the customers, all the employees were getting sick, then we’re not going to have the ability to have a properly functioning city, where people are in a state of good health overall, including their mental health.”

“I am terribly sorry about this in the sense of having a deep regret that these decisions have to be made and I know the premier feels the same way,” he continued, adding none of the decisions are being made in a “cavalier fashion.”

“It’s deeply troubling to be a participant in making these decisions and to hear the advice as to what we can do to shut this virus down. But it is still the right thing to do and we will recover.”

Officials said malls will be asked to setup outdoor pick-up areas for customers. Yorkdale, Scarborough Town Centre and Square One malls in Toronto and Mississauga will be extending mall hours on Saturday and Sunday in an attempt to reduce the number of people going during the peak hours between 1 and 4 p.m.

With regard to the upcoming holiday season, Ford and Williams said a clearer framework will be rolled out in the coming days.

With files from Nick Westoll and The Canadian Press

© 2020 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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