With the province poised to allow unrestricted travel between Manitoba and northwestern Ontario as COVID-19 infection numbers remain low in both regions, Kenora’s mayor is eager to welcome back summer residents and tourists to the small city on Lake of the Woods.
The province proposed axing self-isolation rules for people entering Manitoba from designated western Canadian jurisdictions or northwestern Ontario provided they are not symptomatic beginning June 21 in its third reopening phase draft plan.
Dan Reynard, Kenora’s mayor, is optimistic typical summer traffic will soon pick up again in the region, which is heavily reliant on tourism.
“There are a lot of people coming to their cottages — they’re just not coming into town, because there was no place to go for lunch, none of our boutique shops were open,” Reynard said. “People are coming, and people will come downtown and we’ve always acknowledged that the summer residents play a huge factor in our economy.”
Ontario’s second reopening phase came into effect Friday, which allowed numerous businesses that had remained shuttered in Kenora to reopen.
At the height of the pandemic, Kenora’s officials had requested anyone travelling into the region — which they advised against — avoid coming into town at all.
The region’s COVID-19 infection numbers have remained low — 27 total in the Northwestern Health Unit — and officials feared the worst for the city’s small hospital.
“The worst-case scenario would be that our hospital would be overwhelmed, the hospital is now… at a point that they’re starting to add back elective surgeries,” Reynard said.
Now its time to welcome back the tourists the city relies on.
“The analogy I used was the light at the end of the tunnel — it’s no longer a train, it’s summer sunshine,” Reynard said.
This week, the city’s council directed summer students to place small placards on the windshields of vehicles with out-of-Ontario plates parked downtown.
The cards, signed by Reynard, note the city is glad to see out-of-towners return — but ask people follow physical distancing and other public health protocols.