Expect broader, stricter lockdown measures over holidays: Mayor Tory
Published Wednesday, December 16, 2020 7:42AM EST
Last Updated Wednesday, December 16, 2020 2:08PM EST
Toronto Mayor John Tory says a stricter lockdown including more of the surrounding areas of the GTA is being discussed for the holidays as COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations hit record levels.
Tory said he is in talks with the Ford government and surrounding area mayors about increasing restrictions in lockstep after Dec. 21, when the 28 day lockdown was scheduled to end.
“Going back to the good old days, as much as we’d want to is just not in the cards, in fact we should be doing more, not less,” Tory told CP24 on Wednesday.
He later said the restrictions must cover an area larger than just Toronto, as people are passing between different GTA municipalities in different levels of the province’s five-tier coronavirus response framework.
“We need to have something that is truly going to apply across the whole region. Because I think people are finding it too easy to move back and forth and we have to discourage them from doing so.”
He said that increasing restrictions may be more palatable over the second half of December, as schools are closed and business activity is reduced.
“It is going to be Christmas, schools will be closed. A lot of businesses are not opening at full strength, there are holidays involved,” he said.
Ontario reported more than 2,000 cases of COVID-19 on Tuesday for the first time since the pandemic began.
Hospitalizations hit 921, itself a record, with 267 people admitted to intensive care. The surge in hospitalizations prompted Ontario Health to alert hospitals to activate surge plans to free up beds for more COVID-19 patients.
Test positivity hit its highest point in three weeks at more than five per cent.
You look at the death toll, you look at ICU occupancy, you look at the fact that hospitals are going into a mode where there are going to be people turned away for some of the other kinds of treatment they need,” Tory said. “This is a serious situation.”
Tory said what exactly will be introduced is still up for discussion, but he wants it to include areas that border the city.
“I think people should look back to what we had back in the spring,” he said when asked what new restrictions would look like. He also referred to Quebec, where non-essential businesses will be closed and any worker who is capable will be asked to work from home until mid-January.
He later said that he spoke to Premier Doug Ford about expanded restrictions on Wednesday, but did not say what measures he spoke to him about.
He said making his ideas public would mean discussions would not "proceed properly if we’re putting all of our ideas out there."
"The kinds of discussions, if you want them to be frank and candid, to be able to have a good dialogue back and forth… can’t proceed properly if we are all putting all of our ideas out. And I think that furthermore confuses the public at this stage when we are trying to formulate the right thing to do," he said.
"I have said, I am favourably disposed myself to some sort of a break in the schools that goes on a bit longer and perhaps some virtual learning taking place into January. I have said that it should be regional. I have said that I think we might take some lessons from what Quebec has done with respect to offices and non-essential businesses going into the early part of the New Year."
The mayor noted that whatever is done, there should be "a very robust and complete plan to reopen businesses and other things as soon as circumstances permit."
"I think beyond that, in terms of getting into a shopping list of which is essential and which isn’t, or does it mean this or does it mean that, we do have to have some time to discuss, especially if we want to this on a cooperative basis, which I really thing we do."
He said he believes the premier understands that the public needs to know what additional measures are being taken as soon as possible.
"He is certainly very clear on my view, and I think he’s also a person who understands very well that individual citizens and businesses, because they all have plans to make… need to have as much notice of what you are going to do when it comes to government as possible. I think he understand that point before I talked to him."
Toronto Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Eileen de Villa reiterated her call for the upteenth time for everyone to stay apart and not gather over the holiday season.
"I will say it until the last minute – the holidays in 2020 pose a real threat and demand difficult decisions from all of us," she said.
In Peel, Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Lawrence Loh said there were discussions underway between himself and his counterparts in other GTA municipalities and the province, but would not disclose what was discussed.
"Those are all subjects of active discussion for which I am not able to provide an update in this point in time," he said.
He suggested that the current measures in place in Peel should continue,
"Letting up now would probably result in increased contact, increased interactions and probably increased spread, especially during the holiday season."
It will be up to the province to introduce any new measures.
Tory said he hopes they announce them sooner rather than later.
“Everyone deserves some notice which means the decision has to be made before next Sunday,” he said.