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Rural Ontario regions request residents from COVID-19 hot zones to stay home

Click to play video 'Rural Ontario asks visitors from COVID-19 hot zones to ‘stay home’' Rural Ontario asks visitors from COVID-19 hot zones to ‘stay home’
WATCH ABOVE: As Toronto and Peel Region are under lockdown restrictions, it may be tempting for residents to escape to other regions of the province. But residents and politicians are joining the chorus of public health officials and are asking Ontario residents to stay home. Morganne Campbell reports – Nov 24, 2020

As Toronto and Peel Region are back under coronavirus lockdown restrictions, people in grey zones may be tempted to escape to other parts of the province, but local health officials, politicians and residents are asking them to stay home.

“When customers call they’re advised that we will need to get their postal code and that we are restricting travel from grey and red zones,” explains Norah Roberts, the Innkeeper at The Waring House in Prince Edward County.

The Waring House is one of many businesses peppered across Ontario turning away customers from COVID-19 hot-zones.

Read more: Ontario reports 1,009 new coronavirus cases, a drop due to technical issues

“We really feel badly,” said Roberts, a former family doctor. “We really need to protect our staff and our community.”

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During the summer months, nearly 1.5 million Ontarians visited the county, taking in the wineries, art, food and shopping which caused frustrations for many permanent residents concerned about the virus.

“What we saw was a significant increase in the number of people that really didn’t have anywhere else to go to enjoy some resemblance of summer. The amenities in the GTA were closed and it was also hot this summer so people wanted to escape and a great number of them escaped to Prince Edward County,” explained Mayor Steve Ferguson during a Zoom call with Global Toronto.

Read more: Coronavirus: Escaping the ‘city’ during pandemic not recommended by Ontario health officials

As we make our way through the cooler months there’s concern people may continue to visit the county which is in the green zone at the moment with under 20 positive cases.

“We are in November so the volume of tourism is well down anyway. But we want to make sure that [local] health and safety is maintained,” added Ferguson.
Click to play video 'West-end Toronto restaurant tries to open in defiance of COVID-19 lockdown restrictions' West-end Toronto restaurant tries to open in defiance of COVID-19 lockdown restrictions
West-end Toronto restaurant tries to open in defiance of COVID-19 lockdown restrictions – Nov 24, 2020

Prince Edward County isn’t the only area asking people to stay home, stakeholders in Muskoka and Collingwood have also asked visitors to stay put.

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The province hasn’t implemented any travel restrictions but health units are asking Ontarians to stay in their respective zones. It’s a move that has been applauded by health officials as the country continues to battle the pandemic.

Read more: Canada must reduce contacts to ‘only essential activities’ to stop 2nd wave

“This is driven by human behaviour and the extent that human behaviour is uncontrollable in different urban centres,” says Ottawa-based epidemiologist Raywat Deonandan.

As the number of coronavirus cases continues to surge, many fear the impact the virus may have on the health-care system.

“I am blaming people for this because ultimately this is always in the hands of people to voluntarily limit our individual exposures. If enough people had done that we would not be in this position, probably,” added Deonandan.

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