Londoners expressed frustration, confusion and concern on Wednesday as the Ontario government issued another stay-at-home order and declared its third state of emergency.
Effective Thursday at 12:01 a.m., the order is scheduled to last for a period of four weeks and aims to curb a provincial surge in new cases of COVID-19.
“With a few exceptions, the stay-at-home order will be similar to what we went through earlier this year,” Premier Doug Ford said during a media briefing announcing the new order on Wednesday.
“Unless it’s for an essential reason, please stay home.”
Before the order was issued, but after it was reported that the province had planned to do so, Global News caught up with Londoners to hear their thoughts on the upcoming restrictions.
“I sincerely believe that this should’ve been done way sooner and for way longer,” said Laura Rozon.
The 70-year-old says despite the restrictions brought on by last week’s “emergency brake” shutdown, “we obviously aren’t behaving.”
Andrew Weiss says he’s confused as to why the stay-at-home order wasn’t implemented earlier, describing last week’s shutdown as a “half measure.”
“I look at countries like New Zealand and Australia, places that had a much more thorough set of measures put in place much more quickly and are now bouncing back much more quickly as well,” Weiss said.
“I can’t help but look around and feel like our leaders are failing us right now.”
Under the stay-at-home order, big-box stores are allowed to offer in-person shopping for those buying essential items, but retailers deemed non-essential are limited to curbside pickup only.
Weiss says this makes him concerned for small businesses and leaves him wondering why establishments such as tattoo parlours and barbershops aren’t allowed to reopen.
“I see them as actually safer than going to somewhere like Costco where people aren’t really wearing their masks properly or things aren’t being cleaned,” Weiss said.
“Whereas when I go to my barber, there’s three people in the building and we’re all 10 feet apart and everything is being cleaned for half an hour before I come in.”
Chris Betancour has witnessed the pandemic’s toll on small business through family members who work in retail.
“My family has had to give money to them in order for them to stay afloat and still have their business. It’s been really hard,” Betancour said.
The stay-at-home order allows for schools to stay open, unless local medical officers of health say otherwise. On Tuesday, the Middlesex-London Health Unit’s medical officer of health Dr. Chris Mackie said, “we’re not seeing evidence of spread in the schools here, there’s no indication that we should be closing schools.”
Betancour, who’s a Grade 12 student at Catholic Central High School, says he has challenges with studying online and didn’t want to see his current in-person learning hours reduced.
“You feel more motivated in-person, but when you’re at home, it’s hard to get motivated to study,” Betancour said, adding that he wishes schools could have a semblance of normalcy before he graduates.
“It’s our last year, we can’t have our graduation ceremony like most people have had in the past.”
Norma Martin hopes Ontarians will follow the increased restrictions once the stay-at-home order is issued, adding that she’s worried people are ignoring the rules based on the assumption that they won’t catch the virus.
“I got my shot already because I’m 87, so I have to get a second one in June, so I feel a little bit safer, but I still like to wear my mask and everything,” Martin said.
“There’s going to be a certain amount of people that think it’s a joke,” Martin’s son Dave Pete added.
“As long as there’s a big majority that goes by it, it’s going to work… well, hopefully it works.”
Pete shared many of the concerns voiced by other Londoners who spoke with Global News, with worries for the impact on small business and questions about why the stay-at-home order wasn’t issued earlier.
He also shares a desire that’s likely been felt all over the world: To see an end to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“It’s just frustrating, you think it’s over then it’s not,” Pete said.
“My son lives in B.C. and I’ve been wanting to go and see him, and one day it’s yes and one day it’s no… nothing we can really do about it.”