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Ontario now considering regional approach to reopening the province
TORONTO -- Ontario Premier Doug Ford says the province is now considering a regional approach to reopening.
“The reality on the ground is different in every part of the province,” Ford said at Queen’s Park on Friday. “I am now comfortable with asking our officials to look at a regional approach for a staged reopening.”
“This will be one option we consider as we move into Stage 2.”
Ford said Ontario is able to consider a regional approach to reopening now that testing has ramped up across the province
“We are getting a much better picture of what each region is dealing with, with more testing that picture becomes more and more clear.”
Greater Toronto Area public health units have accounted for 65.6 per cent of all COVID-19 cases in Ontario since the outset of the pandemic but that number has been trending steadily upwards in recent days and weeks and it is believed that more than three-quarters of active cases are now in the region.
The stark divide has prompted some officials in other parts of the province to call for a more regionalized approach that would allow for a quicker reopening in those areas.
The medical officers of health with Ontario's 34 public health units also advocated for such an approach in a letter sent to provincial officials earlier this week.
Earlier today, Toronto Mayor John Tory said he believes that Ontario should take a more regionalized approach to restarting the economy. He conceded that would likely mean the beginning of stage two of the province's reopening process would be pushed back a little longer in the Greater Toronto Area.
Tory said that he would support a region-by-region approach to reopening even if it means that many of the restrictions put in place to limit the spread of COVID-19 will have to remain in effect in the GTA for a little longer.
There are still 1,982 active cases of COVID-19 in Toronto after 201 new cases were confirmed on Thursday. In fact, the 201 new cases confirmed in Toronto on Thursday represented more than half of the 383 new cases confirmed province-wide.
“It doesn’t have to be that one part is open and one part is closed indefinitely but maybe you can have a much longer period before the implementation of the next thing (stage two) to allow Toronto and the GTA to take a little longer,” Tory said on Friday morning. “As much as people won’t want to hear me say that, I think it is sensible.”
The province entered stage one of its three-stage reopening phase back on May 19, allowing retail stores to reopen and some park amenities, such as sports fields, to be used.
The province, however, hasn’t said when it will enter the second stage, which it is expected to include the reopening of childcare centres.
“In the end what we are really looking for here is what is going to keep people safe and keep people healthy in all parts of the province but including here in Toronto,” Tory said Friday. “There is a difference obviously just based on the numbers between what is going on in Toronto versus Sudbury, versus Sault St. Marie. There is a difference and we have to acknowledge that.”
Ford has in the past resisted a more regionalized approach to reopening the economy, telling reporters that it is not something Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. David Williams has advocated for at this point.
Such an approach has previously been taken by a number of other provinces, including Quebec and Alberta, which left some restrictions in place in Montreal and Calgary.
“It would make sense to go with a regional approach to me,” infectious disease expert Dr. Isaac Bogoch told CP24 on Friday morning.
“Most of the cases in Ontario are in and around the GTA. Places in other parts of the province like Kingston, Kenora, Thunder Bay, North Bay, Timmins, they have very, very little infection and seem to have their infections under much better control. They are being held back because of something that is miles and miles away. It doesn’t really make sense to me.”