TORONTO – Retailers and restaurants in Toronto and the Region of Peel braced for a new round of lockdown restrictions on Saturday as the daily tally of new COVID-19 cases in Ontario hit a record high.
“It’s basically the weekend before Christmas,” said Irina Rapaport, shop owner in Toronto’s Danforth neighborhood who, like other non-essential retailers, will be ordering online and only picking up purchases on Monday. .
But his hopes that customers would flock to local stores over the weekend to stock up on Christmas presents seemed increasingly unlikely as of Saturday afternoon.
Rapaport said she was concerned that the restrictions would disproportionately affect small businesses like her eponymous boutique – she designs the clothes herself and only allows one or two customers to enter the store at a time.
She said some big box stores that are allowed to stay open for in-person shopping seem more likely to draw dangerous crowds.
Under Toronto and Peel’s new regime, non-essential retailers will be limited to curbside pickup, indoor dining will be banned, and lounges and gyms will close. Grocery stores, pharmacies and essential retailers – including “department stores” – can continue to shop in person, subject to capacity limits, and schools and child care will remain open.
And despite the record number of cases in Ontario, malls like the Yorkdale Shopping Center have extended their hours of operation this weekend to help shoppers “avoid the peak shopping period” between 1 p.m. and 4 p.m.
Jim Smith, owner of the Envelop clothing store on the Danforth, said he understands why new restrictions are needed and hopes the province’s recently revised rent relief programs will help him get through what is typically his month on more loaded.
The Ontario government has announced that it will double the amount of relief available to businesses to $ 600 million if they are required to shut down or significantly restrict services.
While necessary to stop the spread of COVID-19, Smith said closing his store over the next 28 days will affect factories in Toronto that will help him manufacture his products.
While the store had a solid flow of buyers on Saturday morning, Smith said he would lose a lot of customers.
“Today (shoppers) will be focusing on food, wine and shampoo,” Smith said, as small queues formed outside nearby butchers and pastry shops.
But even as small business owners balked at what they saw as unequal restrictions, local politicians argued for the rules.
“These new measures are the only way to avoid school closures, expand our (long-term care homes) more and overload our hospitals,” said Mayor Bonnie Crombie in Mississauga, Ont. , in a press release.
Crombie, whose municipality is located in the heart of Peel Region, urged everyone to limit in-person contact to their immediate homes and essential supports under the temporary “gray lock-zone” rules.
There were 522 new cases in Peel Region on Saturday, 450 in Toronto and 153 in York Region, with nearly 46,700 tests performed, Health Minister Christine Elliott said.
The latest figures bring the total of COVID-19 cases in Ontario to 102,378, with 3,472 deaths and 86,079 resolved cases. The province also reports that 513 people are hospitalized for COVID-19, including 87 on ventilators.
Amr Elimam, owner of the Papyrus restaurant, said pedestrian traffic from retailers on the Danforth during the holidays typically lifts the area’s restaurants and lounges.
Elimam, who never opened his restaurant’s dining room out of caution over the virus, said he urged local policymakers to act faster and sooner when cases started to rise in the fall in order to avoid a foreclosure during the holiday season.
“As a business owner I was looking at what other countries were and what we were doing as a province… we knew we were going to this point,” he said. “If the government had intervened earlier, it could have saved the Christmas season.”
This report by The Canadian Press was first published on November 21, 2020.
Anita Balakrishnan, The Canadian Press