Etobicoke, Ont. pub reopens in defiance of restrictions while experts weigh new tactics to fight COVID-19

Click to play video: 'Toronto businesses express growing frustration on repeated lockdowns' Toronto businesses express growing frustration on repeated lockdowns
As Ontario prepares to ease pandemic restrictions on Monday, there is a sense of deja vu among many in the business community. Some are frustrated about the back-and-forth between lockdown and reopening. Albert Delitala reports – Jan 29, 2022

An Etobicoke, Ont., pub reopened to indoor dining on Saturday in defiance of Ontario’s current COVID-19 restrictions.

“It’s a roller-coaster. You go up, you’re doing good, and then you’re back down,” said Colby Kriegl standing outside his business, T. J. O’Shea’s Irish Snug.

He said he decided to open his pub two days before dine-in restrictions are set to ease, in protest of the province’s on-again, off-again measures, which have made operating an “extreme struggle.”

“I would just like to stand up for all small businesses and give everybody a chance to say ‘we’re standing up and we’ve had enough and we need more help,'” he said.

Read more: Doug Ford says Ontario needs to ‘learn to live with’ COVID ahead of reopening Monday

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Tatsu’s Bread, located a few blocks east, is taking a different approach. Following the rules is important, explained employee Taira Macdonald, but frequently-evolving restrictions have been “a little bit frustrating.”

Each time dine-in service is taken away, selling staple items like sandwiches and hot soup becomes more difficult.

“We would appreciate if we could keep the tables all the time,” he said. “It’s going to be better for us, obviously.”

As Ontario prepares to ease restrictions on Monday, allowing venues such as restaurants, gyms, and theatres to reopen with capacity limits, experts such as Dr. Kwadwo Kyeremanteng are suggesting a need to move past lockdowns and instead “live with” the virus.

“This isn’t sustainable, the way we’re approaching these waves,” said Dr. Kyeremanteng, an Ottawa intensive-care unit and palliative care physician. “We really need to think, have a different approach, an alternative approach.”

He said officials should instead take steps to prevent the highest-risk people from ending up in hospitals and ICUs, by ensuring adequate vaccination and the availability of the latest therapeutics against COVID-19.

“This has to be the path forward to be able to live with COVID,” he said. “There are going to be future variants. COVID’s not going anywhere.”

Read more: Ontario reports 3,439 people in hospital with COVID-19, 597 in intensive care

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It’s a change of approach increasingly floated by experts, including Dr. Kieran Moore, Ontario’s chief medical officer of health.

“We have to learn as a society to live with this virus, to live with the risk, wherever we’re going in our community, and adhere to all the best practices,” he said during a video conference on Thursday. “As a government, we’re opening up in a very cautious and slow manner to try to protect our communities as well.”

In an email response to Global News, the City of Toronto stated it is aware of the move by T. J. O’Shea’s to re-open early.  It said it is working with the business to ensure compliance with restrictions.

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