'The rules make no sense': Small businesses question value of COVID-19 lockdowns in Toronto, Peel Region
TORONTO -- Non-essential businesses have been shuttered and in-person dining has been restricted as Toronto and Peel Region officially enter a lockdown amid a rising number of COVID-19 cases.
The two regions were placed in the fifth and final category of the province’s COVID-19 tiered framework that guides public health restrictions on Monday.
Under the lockdown category, most non-essential businesses have been restricted to curbside pickup or delivery, in-person dining and personal care services have been prohibited and places of worship have been limited to 10 people.
Businesses deemed essential have been restricted to 50 per cent capacity.
While the measures are meant to help curb the spread of COVID-19, many businesses say they unfairly target certain establishments and provide little in terms of protection from the disease.
“The rules make no sense at all,” said Dan Kelly, president of the Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB). “How does it make sense to shut down the small flower store but allow people to line up at Walmart to buy a bouquet of flowers, to shut down the small independent bookseller but allow them to go to Costco, line up and buy books there.”
“How does that help prevent COVID when we’re forcing these little tiny independent stores that have no problem doing physical distancing because they see 10 customers in a day and forcing them into a lineup of people.”
Instead, the CFIB is proposing a “small business first retail strategy” during the lockdown, which would allow independent establishments to serve three customers at a time, with a maximum of three staff.
“That should provide for loads of room for physical distancing, allow these small retailers to try to eke out a bit of a living and not miss out on the critical Christmas season for retail sales.”
Kelly said the association is also encouraging pre-booking of shopping appointments to help avoid long lines and curbside pickup or delivery.
CFIB is estimating that there will be about 160,000 permanent business closures across Canada.
“That was before the second wave, before the additional lockouts with these new measures,” Kelly added.
Speaking to reporters at his daily news conference, Ontario Premier Doug Ford could not confirm why some large retail stores such as the Hudson's Bay on Queen Street were allowed to remain open while other smaller businesses were shuttered.
"I'm always going to listen to the health experts on this and take the advice of the chief medical officer and their team," he said.
"It's tough to balance the health and the wellbeing of of society, because that is the number one priority, with the economy. It's a challenge, but I'll tell you one thing, if we just ignore the health and just say okay, look, let's open everything up, sure as I'm standing here we would be in terrible, terrible shape."
Associate Medical Officer of Health Dr. Barbara Yaffe said that while it is "unfortunate" the health restrictions are having a negative impact on businesses, data shows that the transmission of COVID-19 is occurring in places where people get together, where physical distancing is difficult, and where ventilation isn't at its best.
"Those are the kinds of circumstances that may occur in smaller businesses," she said. "I'm not saying they do in every business but those are the kinds of circumstances that help the transmission of this infection. So we can't just look at the data that we have, we have to look at the whole picture."
The lockdown in Toronto and Peel Region will last for a minimum of 28 days, or until Dec. 21, right before the holidays.
Speaking with CP24 on Monday morning, Toronto Mayor John Tory urged people to stay home if possible and to follow the new rules.
“The main thing people can do now is please stay home,” he said. “It matters less in the context of achieving the result which kind of stores are close and not closed. It matters more whether people decide to follow the advice, which is if it is at all possible just stay home.”
“Look it is a sad day today just to see this kind of thing having to happen but again the choice was to not do these kind of things and have a much longer, much broader, much worse kind of lockdown happen latter when we had completely lost control of this thing as you have seen elsewhere in the world.”
Durham Region and Waterloo joined York Region in the “red” zone of the province’s COVID-19 framework on Monday, which limits restaurants, gyms and food courts to 10 people indoors with physical distancing.