Toronto Mayor John Tory says he supports a provincial decision to lock down Ontario for 28 days starting on Boxing Day and the onus is now on city residents to keep following public health rules.
Speaking at a city hall news conference on Monday, Tory said officials are still trying to determine how the provincial lockdown will affect Toronto.
The mayor says city staff are reviewing the decision to determine its impact on city services. The decision means there will be amendments to the current lockdown regulation, he added.
Until details are clear, Tory said individual behaviour matters greatly as the COVID-19 pandemic continues.
“We need to repeat the solid compliance that we saw in the spring,” Tory told reporters.
“If you think back, people really did co-operate at that time. When we endured some weeks of sacrifice, the numbers got better and better as time went on. We have proven before that we can do this.”
Earlier on Monday, Premier Doug Ford announced the lockdown, saying restrictions will be in place in southern Ontario until Jan. 23, but will be eased for northern Ontario on Jan. 9.
Toronto moved into the province’s grey lockdown zone on Nov. 23. When provincial lockdown restrictions are lifted for southern Ontario, Toronto will have been locked down for 60 days.
Tory said the lockdown is needed to ensure hospitals across the province have the capacity in their intensive care units to treat people infected with COVID-19.
“Public health officials have been clear that this kind of hard lockdown is needed to stop the spread of COVID-19,” he said.
“This kind of strong stand against the virus is needed to save lives and to protect the health of each and every one of the residents of our city and of our province.”
Tory said the mayors and chairs of the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area at their Monday meeting also expressed support for the premier’s move.
The mayor urged Toronto residents to stay home as much as possible and to organize Christmas and New Year’s Eve celebrations with members of their households only.
“Action is needed now in order to get our numbers across the province back on track.”
City reports 1,800 COVID-19-related deaths
Dr. Eileen de Villa, the city’s medical officer of health, agreed with the mayor that individual actions make a difference. De Villa also spoke at the news conference.
“Fundamentally, what it does come down to is reducing social interaction between people and really focusing on staying home as much as possible,” she said.
De Villa reported that Toronto has 646 new cases of the novel coronavirus as of Sunday at 2 p.m.
The new daily number brings the cumulative total in Toronto since the pandemic began to 54,009. A total of 46,378 cases have been marked as resolved.
There are 300 people in hospital with the virus. Of those, 86 people are in intensive care units and 52 are breathing with the help of ventilators.
De Villa also reported nine new COVID-19-related deaths. The total number of COVID-19-related deaths in Toronto now stands at 1,800.
Youngest person in hospital with COVID-19 is 11 years old
De Villa noted that, in the last 24 hours, the youngest person who died was 30 years old, while the youngest person hospitalized is 11 years old.
“It’s disappointing COVID-19 has worsened so dangerously during the holidays, but trouble doesn’t care what day it is. It strikes when it strikes,” she said.
“COVID-19 has gathered steam. The best we can do is to cut it off. That requires us to keep apart at every opportunity. But being apart does not have to mean being completely alone.”
De Villa urged city residents to stay connected through their phones and computers over the holidays.
“And when you connect, take credit for the choice to keep apart this year. You have every right to say to one another: ‘I wish we didn’t have to do this, but I am glad we did.'”
Large gatherings lead to 25 charges over weekend
Toronto Fire Chief Matthew Pegg, for his part, said the city’s enforcement team laid 25 charges over the weekend following complaints about large gatherings at various venues, including a bar, a lounge, an industrial unit and on private property.
Pegg said Toronto police laid three charges against organizers of weekend protests and rallies. These events included a rally downtown, a pop-up protest that took over an intersection in 14 Division, a protest at Yonge-Dundas Square and a protest at Queen’s Park. Police also responded to an “anti-mask, Santa Claus-themed” rally downtown.
Police are continuing to investigate, he said.
“I want to thank the vast majority of residents and businesses who continue to help stop the spread of COVID-19 in our city,” Pegg added.
Under current grey lockdown zone restrictions, the following rules are in place:
- Having family or friends who are not members of your household in your home for a social visit is prohibited.
- Organizing or attending any kind of indoor social gathering or organized public event is prohibited.
- Having essential support workers and emergency repair people in your home is exempt.
- People who live alone are permitted to have one person from outside their household in their home.
- No gatherings are permitted indoors with the exception of weddings, funerals, or religious services or ceremonies, and all of those are limited to 10 people.
- Outdoor organized public events and social gatherings are limited to a maximum of 10 people.
- Gathering with anyone not from your household anywhere, including outside, is discouraged.
- Non-essential travel outside of a resident’s own community is strongly discouraged.
“To avoid future or prolonged restrictions following the strict measures announced today, it is important that Torontonians follow the advice and orders of public health experts to protect the health-care system and to save lives,” the city said in a news release on Monday.
“The city acknowledges how challenging and difficult this is for individuals, families, businesses, and the mental and economic health of the city.”
Under the provincial lockdown, there will be some changes. Schools in Toronto, and the rest of southern Ontario, will switch to remote learning when classes resume in the new year.
Elementary schools will be closed for in-class learning until at least Jan. 11 while secondary schools will remain closed until Jan. 25.
The new measures also mean all non-essential businesses must close, and essential businesses that remain open will have stricter capacity limits than they do as part of the grey lockdown zone. Discount and big-box retailers will be limited to 25 per cent capacity while grocery stores and pharmacies will be limited to 50 per cent.