TORONTO -- The mayor of Hamilton, Ont. is questioning a decision by a local mall to extend shopping hours in the days leading up to Christmas as COVID-19 case numbers in the area remain high and nearby regions remain in lockdown.

Lime Ridge Mall said in a statement issued Tuesday that the change will allow shoppers more time to shop throughout the holiday season.

The mall is typically open Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m., Saturday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Sundays from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.

The extended hours, which took effect Monday, will now see the mall open from 9 a.m. until 9 p.m. all the way until Christmas Eve when the mall closes at 5 p.m.

“This flies in the face of the kinds of recommendations that we’ve been putting out which is for people to stay at home,” Mayor Fred Eisenberger told CTV news Toronto on Tuesday. “Only go out for essential issues and, you know, shopping for Christmas is not considered to be essential.”

“This is not helpful,” the mayor added.

Hamilton is currently operating in the “red zone” of the province’s colour-coded COVID-19 framework due to high case numbers being reported daily in the area.

Earlier this month, the city’s medical officer of health introduced additional measures on top of those restrictions, including reducing capacity and limits at shopping malls and retail establishments and active screening at workplaces, shopping malls and retail businesses.

Those enhanced measures went into effect on Dec. 7 and Cadillac Fairview, the company that runs the network of malls across Canada, said it is working with its retail clients to ensure compliance and is “encouraging consumers to shop during non-peak hours throughout the week to help spread out traffic in the centre.”

Despite that, some on social media were quick to criticize the decision to keep the mall open longer with many saying the move could bring residents from lockdown areas, where malls are currently closed, to the city.

“#LimeRidgeMall needs to shorten its hours to keep the #covidiots from the GTA descending in droves,” wrote Pam P on Twitter.

“I question allowing lime ridge mall to extend hours so people from the locked down areas can get their shopping in, how is that going to keep Hamilton in the red.....get ready to be locked down,” wrote another user named Brenda.

Health Minister Christine Elliott addressed the news Tuesday while strongly discouraging residents living within lockdown areas from travelling to other regions.

“We want people to stay in place, stay in your own homes as much as possible,” Elliott said. “Please don’t go shopping in other areas that are lower zones. That just increases the community transmission, increases our numbers and puts more strain on our hospitals.” 

The mall said it anticipates “additional line ups inside and outside of the property” in the coming days and asked guests to “prepare their visits accordingly.”