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Hamilton mayor urges retailers to avoid Black Friday in-person sales

Don Mitchell / Global News

Mayors from some of Ontario’s largest municipalities urged retailers who will be open this week amid the province’s four-week lockdown to avoid holding large in-person Black Friday sales.

Following a virtual meeting on Monday, the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area (GTHA) mayors issued a statement suggesting such events would “produce crowd scenes which would only serve to undermine the fight against COVID-19.”

“The Mayors and Chairs urge people to shop online and to support local retailers through internet shopping and the curbside pickup option,” the statement said.

Read more: Coronavirus — Hamilton reports 42 new COVID-19 cases, 3 deaths

Hamilton’s Fred Eisenberger echoed the sentiments, telling Global News earlier in the day that stopping people from “congregating” in stores, retail spaces and malls is an important measure to limit a potential rise in coronavirus cases.

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“If the numbers continue to go up, then we’re going to end up where people in Toronto, Brampton and Mississauga are right now, which is virtually a complete shutdown of all the things that we like to enjoy,” Eisenberger said.

Toronto Mayor John Tory said Black Friday 2020 was not an event to “cash in on” and create “crowd scenes.”

“We are in the midst of a pandemic and a lockdown. Now is not the time for pandemonium,” Tory said.

“No deal, no TV, no clothing item, no video game is worth someone else getting or taking a risk on someone else getting COVID-19 during this lockdown.”

The message comes hours after Premier Doug Ford and deputy chief medical officer of health Dr. Barbara Yaffe fielded questions during Monday’s daily pandemic briefing on why many major box stores and Hudson’s Bay in downtown Toronto opened on the first day of the lockdown.

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“If a large store is open, it would be because they are serving either one of the essential services, be it groceries, pharmacy products, hardware and so on,” said Yaffe.

The premier said the reason Ontario did not impose bans on the sale of non-essential items – like Manitoba did during their latest provincial lockdown – was due to a “logistical nightmare” for some stores.

“They have essential items spread out throughout their whole store,” Ford said.

“And then on top of that, how do they monitor and restrict people from going in there? That’s the feedback I got off them.”

Meanwhile, Markham Mayor Frank Scarpitti praised a move by York Region’s medical officer of health Dr. Karim Kurji on Monday who set maximum capacities for retailers under the province’s Health Protection and Promotion Act (HPPA).

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Read more: Coronavirus — Toronto Hudson’s Bay store open on day 1 of lockdown to suspend in-person shopping

Scarpitti said the move essentially “closed a loophole” for shoppers who might try to bypass Toronto’s lockdown and plan shopping trips to York Region malls and big-box stores while in the red-control level of the province’s new COVID-19 response framework.

“Don’t advertise show up here at 7:00 a.m., line up and overcrowd entrances, and overcrowd our facilities,” Scarpitti told Global News.

“That’s something we don’t want to do because Black Friday could very quickly turn into dark Friday with the spread of COVID-19.”

The mayor said the regional council will also devote more enforcement to ensure public safety during the second wave of the pandemic.

“The region has committed to the province to increase enforcement activities with York Regional Police and our municipal bylaw partners in areas where we have issues with overcrowding and lack of physical distancing, including malls, big-box retailers, grocery stores and banquet halls,” Scarpitti said.