In the daily government announcement on Wednesday, Ford, along with Health Minister Christine Elliott, responded to questions from the media about an open letter sent by a group of retailers asking the government to allow businesses to reopen not essential.
Ford said he should follow the advice of the province’s chief medical officer of health and temporarily shut down non-essential stores for the safety of Ontarians.
« [If] I put my hat on, I open these things in the blink of an eye, but I can’t. I have to listen to the health experts. It’s proven, it works, and that’s how we’ve been able to move forward all this time. I’m a businessman. I don’t want to shut them down, but health trumps my personal belief in doing something, ”Ford said.
In the letter, which was signed by around 50 retailers, they claim that “separating ‘non-essential’ retailers from those deemed essential could actually make matters worse.”
“Instead, he [the lockdown] channeled these shoppers and the corresponding health risk into fewer and increasingly crowded stores in Toronto and Peel, as well as adjacent communities, as we saw in Vaughan and Markham during the weekend. This potentially creates a greater health risk, ”the letter read.
Additionally, retailers say big box stores are benefiting from increased demand as many small businesses have had to close even though they sold many of the same products. As a result, many of these businesses are forced to lay off employees during the busiest shopping season of the year.
Instead, retailers are calling on the government to immediately reopen all retail outlets in the province and impose a 25% capacity limit on non-essential businesses in locked areas.
“It will put fewer people in more stores, increasing safety for everyone. The current policy does the opposite, ”the letter read. “Capacity restrictions backed by strong social distancing and other safety measures already in place will lead to better health outcomes in an efficient, equitable way that will save jobs and support people. local businesses and families. ”
Ford noted that the decision to shut down non-essential businesses was made to reduce the number of people in one setting at a time and, therefore, reduce the risk of transmission.
“If you go to the big box retailer, it’s kind of the one stop shop, and I know that’s not fair, trust me. I know it’s not fair, but it really prevents people from going out and making four or five, six stops on the way back to pick things up, ”he said.
Elliott reiterated that Ontarians should only leave their homes for essential services or to purchase essentials.
“When it comes to big box stores, we hope people will go there looking for essentials. This is the reason they are open. For drug stores and some of the grocery sections that a lot of big box stores have, ”she says.
Ford added that federal and provincial financial support is available to help small businesses and residents should shop nearby to help them as well.
“Go online, buy online, order meals online. Do everything you can online and not with the big online retailers, ”he said.
On November 23, the Toronto and Peel region entered a 28-day lockdown as part of the provincial government’s response to COVID-19.
The lockdown has forced the closure of non-essential businesses, indoor restaurants, gyms and movie theaters to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus in these hot spots.
The province recorded 1,723 new cases of the virus on Wednesday, including 410 in Toronto and 500 in Peel.
Another 35 deaths were also recorded on Wednesday, marking a tie for the highest single-day death toll since the start of the second wave of the pandemic.