Toronto's top doctor urges people to call out friends, family who plan to break COVID-19 holiday rules
Visitors to the historic Distillery District in Toronto take in the Christmas lights on Saturday, December 12, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn
TORONTO -- Toronto’s top doctor is urging people to call out friends and family who intend to break COVID-19 lockdown measures and gather during the holidays.
Speaking at a news conference Tuesday afternoon, Toronto’s Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Eileen de Villa said that this year’s holiday season poses “a real threat” and demands “difficult decisions.”
“I know many of you are acting to protect yourselves and the people who matter to you,” she said. “I'm asking all of you who are doing differently over the holidays to lead by example and to speak up. Directly encourage the people you know and care about to commit to the same thing, keeping apart for the good of everyone. The more voices there are taking a stand, the more impact our resolve will have.”
De Villa’s comments come as the city surpassed 50,000 COVID-19 cases since the beginning of the pandemic, including more than 1,700 deaths. On Wednesday, the city saw a new record of 850 infections logged in a 24-hour period.
As a result of rising COVID-19 cases, the city was placed under a 28-day lockdown order in mid-November, which is set to expire on Dec. 21 right before the holidays. At that point, the province can either end the lockdown order or extend it.
Under lockdown, residents have been asked to stay home when possible, to leave only for essential reasons, such as groceries or work, and to gather only with people they live with. Those who live alone are allowed to meet up with one other household.
“We know that people aren't staying at home as much as they did back in the spring, thus creating more opportunities for virus spread,” de Villa added.
“Our call to action has never been clearer. I cannot urge you strongly enough to keep apart during the holidays.”
Toronto’s mayor echoed de Villa’s call, saying he is discussing possible new lockdown measures with provincial officials that would go into effect over the holidays in an effort to curb the spread of the disease.
“If you were planning to gather with people outside of those who live with who you live with in spite of the public health rules, we need you to rethink your Christmas plans,” Mayor John Tory said.
“Right now, the more people who gathered together this Christmas, the more COVID will spread, and the more strain we will see on our hospitals, the more lives that will be lost.”
Tory added that the first wave lockdown was more effective when everyone stayed home during Easter. While he noted that Christmas and Hanukah may be more family-oriented holidays, he stressed that meeting up with other households is not worth the potential risk.
“This Christmas, stay home as much as possible. If that needs, even now that you have to change your plans, please change them,” he said.
“We don't want to look back at Christmas 2020 ashamed that collectively we didn't do the right thing in this region.”