TORONTO -- Retailers will be exempted from the city’s noise bylaws so that they can receive deliveries 24 hours a day and “ensure essential goods remain in stock” amid a COVID-19 outbreak that has led to widespread panic buying.

The exemption is being issued following a request from the Retail Council of Canada.

It is “effective immediately and until further notice,” according to the city.

“We are taking this action to help Toronto businesses get deliveries and continue to stock their shelves with essential goods for our residents,” Mayor John Tory said in a press release. “By exempting retail businesses from the city's noise bylaw right now, we will ensure that retailers can receive deliveries 24 hours of a day, seven days a week.”

According to the release, the city’s noise bylaw includes the ability to provide an exemption “in response to extraordinary circumstances affecting the immediate health, safety or welfare of the community.”

Task force established

The news of the exemption comes hours after Tory announced that he was forming a task force to help protect the economy from the “devastating impact” the spread of the virus is already having on business.

In a news release issued early Monday morning, Tory said that the task force “will identify immediate and longer-term economic recovery strategies for residents and businesses, with a focus on supporting those segments of the economy that are most strongly impacted by COVID-19, such as tourism, hospitality and entertainment.”

He said that as part of the task force’s work, he will be conducting conference calls with groups of key stakeholders. That work will begin today with a trio of conference calls with representatives from the film, hospitality and tourism industries, which he says have been “very hard hit” by the global pandemic.

Deputy Mayor Michael Thompson and Budget Chief Gary Crawford will also be participating in the calls.

“What we are asking them is what can we do to help you now and help your employees now and what can the other governments do to help you,” Tory told CP24 from his home on Monday, where he is in self-isolation as a precaution after returning from the United Kingdom last week. “For example, the federal government has announced $10 billion (in economic relief) but we need to make sure that money is spent properly to protect jobs and protect the economy.”

Five immediate measures

Tory said that the purpose of the task force will be to “quickly determine what current supports and stimulus work needs to be done” to protect the city’s economy in these “unprecedented times.”

John Tory

There are, however, several immediate measures that the city will take to provide some economic relief in the interim.

Tory said that the city will be providing businesses with a grace period for tax and other City of Toronto payments for at least the next 30 days and will also be calling on the provincial and federal governments to wave the penalties for business owners failing to remit HST on time.

He said that the city will also be “establishing a substantial contingency fund to support businesses and affected group” and will expand its small business advisory services to further assist business which are hurting. As well, Tory committed to ensuring that workers are paid for shifts that were planned for city-run daycares, museums, and recreation centres, which are now shuttered.

“I just want people to know that we are on this,” he said.

Tory pleas with residents to self-isolate

There have been 145 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Ontario so far with the province adding 42 to the tally on Sunday alone.

Tory said that the Toronto’s medical officer of health may give some further indication later today of the need for people to self-isolate at home and avoid being in groups, when possible.

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He said that people should, however, “disregard” rumours they may hear about other actions the governments could be planning.

“This something where you don’t know where it is going to end but you also don’t know where it is going to go in the meantime and people need to understand that the governments are doing their very best to make adjustments to the different closures and things we have going and I think you are going to learn more about that today but please cooperate with what you are asked to do on self-isolation,” Tory said. “We are doing our very best, everyone is, to make sure that this is dealt with in a way in which Toronto can come out the other end successful, strong and healthy.”

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