Discussions ongoing to possibly ‘lock down even further’ over the holidays, Toronto mayor says

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WATCH ABOVE: Toronto Mayor John Tory said on Wednesday that he believes more restrictions need to be implemented with notice ahead of the expiry of the 28-day lockdown the city is currently experiencing, adding that the restrictive measures must be regionally-targeted – Dec 16, 2020

Toronto Mayor John Tory says discussions are ongoing to possibly “lock down even further” over the holidays in a bid to curb the spread of COVID-19.

Tory said all residents must “do the right thing” and not gather together.

He said public health officials in different levels of government, including those in the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area, are seeing whether they can use the holidays, which he called “a traditionally quieter time,” to implement more measures to slow the spread of the virus.

Read more: Coronavirus: Quebec orders 2-week shutdown of non-essential businesses starting Christmas Day

“This is something we’re already seeing in other jurisdictions, including right next door in the province of Quebec,” Tory said

Toronto is currently in the lockdown stage of the province’s coronavirus response framework, which is the strictest level of restrictions. The city, along with neighbouring Peel Region, are facing a Dec. 21 deadline when restrictions must either be renewed or altered. York Region also entered lockdown on Monday for a 28-day period.

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Among the lockdown restrictions is a ban on indoor gatherings unless with members of the same household, a ban on indoor and outdoor dining at restaurants, and the closure of non-essential retail, limiting the stores to curbside pickup or delivery.

Read more: Ontario surpasses 4,000 coronavirus deaths, reports more than 2,100 new cases again

Tory said he thinks “we need to do more,” but didn’t specifically say what he has asked of the provincial government, adding that in order for discussions to be effective and to avoid confusing the public, they must remain private.

However, Tory noted that he’s in favour of some sort of an extended winter break in schools, perhaps with virtual learning, that goes on into January, that restrictions be implemented on a regional basis — across the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area — and said that we should take note of what Quebec has done with respect to closing non-essential offices and businesses into the new year.

Outside of Toronto, Peel and York, in the “red zone” are Durham Region, Halton Region, and Hamilton — which is less restrictive than the lockdown and allows for limited social gatherings with physical distancing, as well as some additional restaurant and non-essential retail services.

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The mayor said that people are too easily moving from areas with tight restrictions to those that are more open.

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Both Tory and Toronto medical officer of health Dr. Eileen de Villa said that cellphone data shows that people are not staying home nearly as much as they did in the first lockdown in the spring which effectively reduced transmission rates.

While the city has the authority to implement some additional local restrictions, they are more effective as part of a “regionalized approach,” De Villa said.

Tory said discussions were ongoing to shut down additional city programs “to send the signal that we want to give you fewer places to go.”

When asked about enforcement of illegal gatherings, the mayor said that while he doesn’t direct the police, in his opinion everyone who flouts the rules should be charged at this point.

Tory said in the end, the most important aspect of reducing the spread of COVID-19 comes down to people deciding to stay home.

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“We wouldn’t have to do anything more if people just agreed to stay home, to wear a mask when they had to go out shopping or when they had to go to work, to socialize only with the people they live with,” he said.

“If people followed those rules and washed their hands, we would be able to make great progress.”

Ontario reported 2,139 new coronavirus cases on Wednesday, marking the second-largest single-day increase in cases to date in the province. Of those, 780 were from Toronto.

Tory said he hopes the province will make a decision on implementing more restrictions by the end of the week.

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