Mayor John Tory pleaded with residents Monday not to gather together as they normally would to celebrate two major religious holidays which fall this week.

“Easter and Passover are of course coming this week and this weekend. These are major holidays for many families in our city and friends often in most years travel and get together,” Tory said at a news conference. “This year we’re facing an unprecedented threat, a deadly virus. So we are asking all families and friends to celebrate at home with the loved ones they live with all the time and to avoid travelling to see other family members or friends or gathering in large groups. An Easter Egg hunt isn’t worth your life.”

Passover begins Wednesday night and lasts for eight days.  The Passover Seder, or feast, is one of the most widely observed traditions among Jews and typically involves large gatherings at people’s homes and in synagogues.

Easter falls this Sunday and is typically celebrated by Christians with church services, family meals and Easter egg hunts for children.  

The mayor’s plea for people to celebrate within the confines of their own homes this year comes as Toronto reported 69 new cases, for a total of 1,301 in the city. There are currently 145 people in hospital with COVID-19 in Toronto, 60 of them in intensive care units. In Toronto, 32 people have died of the illness so far and provincial health officials have projected that that number will increase within the next two weeks.  

“This is all about saving lives, protecting the health care system and getting back to our normal way of life as quickly as possible,” Tory said. “I know it is hard to consider spending an important holiday away from grandma and grandpa or from nephews and nieces or from brothers and sisters, but this is what has to be done to prevent the spread of this terrible virus further across our comminutes.

“There will be a time, hopefully sooner than later, when we can come together to celebrate our various traditions with our family and friends. But right now we need to stay home and stay safe, as the medical officer of health has been telling us consistently for some time now.”  

Tory also noted that grocery stores are typically very busy in the days preceding both holidays.

He urged people to avoid last-minute shopping for the holidays this week so as to avoid large crowds forming at stores.

“I’m asking, on behalf of the grocery stores themselves, that citizens of Toronto should plan ahead and consider going to the grocery store earlier in the week if you can and to specifically try to avoid shopping on Thursday and Saturday,” Tory said. “This will make it easier for the stores to cope with the measures they put in place to keep you safe and of course it will keep you safer because there will be less of a crowd scene on those days at those stores.”