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A couple of Southeastern Ontario mayors would like to see an economic reopening

Click to play video: 'Kingston and Belleville mayors talk economic reopening' Kingston and Belleville mayors talk economic reopening
WATCH: Kingston's Mayor Bryan Paterson and Belleville's Mayor Mitch Panciuk hoping for regional economic reopening – Feb 5, 2021

Last spring the City of Kingston and the local Medical Officer of Health pushed the province for regional powers to reopen the economy during the first COVID-19 lockdown.

Now, there’s talk of doing it again backed by a low number of novel coronavirus cases in our region. Mayor Bryan Paterson says the topic of a regional reopening has actually been going on for a few weeks now.

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“The fact is that our case numbers are very low here in our region. They’re really quite low across this part of Eastern Ontario and I think that there’s a good case to be made for a regional reopening.”

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Dr. Kieran Moore is the Medical Officer of Health for Kingston, Frontenac, Lennox and Addington.

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“I think our rates warrant a review of opening our local economy,” Moore said. “I think our community has been brilliant at responding to the risk when it increases. And that’s demonstrated day in day out through our high testing rates.

“So I’m confident if we are allowed to open, we can open safety with that caveat of limiting travel, staying local, supporting local. I think that will be a key message if we’re allowed.”

Belleville’s mayor, Mitch Panciuk, is another Southeastern Ontario municipal leader who is also behind the idea.

“The Hastings Prince Edward Health Unit has had some of the lowest numbers in Ontario through-out the entire COVID-19 pandemic and it’s because we’ve been working hard,” Panciuk said.

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And that hard work should result in reopening, the Belleville mayor said.

“I will be very disappointed if the provincial government doesn’t recognize the work and the sacrifice. And let’s also remember we’ve been doing this longer than anyone else in Ontario,” he said.

“Our health unit was the host for repatriated Canadians from China and from cruise ships earlier this spring. So we have done the COVID protocols before they even were required in Ontario.”

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The provincial lockdown has been in effect since Boxing Day and is set to expire Feb. 11. Paterson has his fingers crossed.

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“The fact is lockdowns are tough on businesses — they’re tough on organizations. It’s been a tough stretch over the last close to two months now,” he said.

“So if we can explore ways of at least regions like ours can reopen and do it safety, that’s definitely something that should be considered.”

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