Would a curfew to curb the spread of COVID-19 in Toronto actually be effective?
A locked gate is seen at High Park in Toronto on Friday, May 1, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn
TORONTO -- As Toronto continues to report new COVID-19 case numbers by the hundreds on a daily basis, Mayor John Tory was asked Wednesday if the city would consider implementing a curfew to help curb the spread of the disease.
While a nighttime curfew has not yet been suggested by the city’s health officials, he said he would have the conversation if they believed it to be effective.
“If it comes up though, because it comes from the medical and scientific people and they believe it will make a substantive difference in the spread of the virus, then of course I would engage in that discussion,” he said at the time.
But is a curfew actually effective in preventing the transmission of COVID-19?
One infectious diseases specialist says they can be, but only when other public health restrictions are followed.
“I honestly don’t think it’s fair to look at curfews, in and of themselves, because it’s never the sole component to a plan,” Dr. Isaac Bogoch told CTV News Toronto on Thursday.
“Curfews would be at the end of the spectrum where the wheels have fallen off and you’re basically grasping at straws for anything to keep the virus under control because your healthcare system is getting stretched beyond capacity,” he said.
And while Toronto’s healthcare system is not yet stretched beyond capacity, the city’s intensive care units are definitely feeling the strain.
On Wednesday, the medical director of critical care at Michael Garron Hospital in Toronto’s east end told CP24 Tuesday that while about 14 per cent of all intensive care (ICU) patients in the city are infected with COVID-19, some hospitals have seen that number climb to as high as 40 per cent.
"The numbers are not looking good," Dr. Michael Warner said at the time.
Toronto, as well as Peel Region, is currently operating under the “grey zone” of the province’s colour coded COVID-19 framework. Those measures forced the closure of most non-essential businesses just over a week ago while also restricting onsite dining at restaurants, as well as the use of gyms and fitness centres.
A curfew added to that, Bogoch says, would be at the more stringent end of the scale.
If Toronto did choose to impose a curfew, they wouldn’t be the first to do so.
Last month, California announced a statewide nighttime curfew, which required residents to stay home from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m., unless traveling for essential purposes.
In August, Australia imposed a curfew for residents of Melbourne as case numbers spiraled out of control.
But just because curfews have been effective in other parts of the world, that doesn’t mean they would work here, Bogoch argues.
“I think we have to, for lack of a better word, read the room. Just because certain policies work in certain parts of the world that doesn’t mean you can directly translate them to the Canadian setting.”
For his part, Tory said that any such action would need to be initiated by the province.
In an email to CTV News Toronto, the government of Ontario said they are “’not currently” considering implementing a curfew.
With files from CP24's Codi Wilson anc Chris Herhalt.