Mayor John Tory is defending the move for Toronto to go into the grey lockdown zone amid calls from the public and businesses to move the city into the red zone on Friday.
Ontario health officials announced both Toronto and Peel Region will be moving into the grey zone of the province’s COVID-19 colour-coded framework from the stay-at-home order, which both regions have been in since Jan. 14. A provincial lockdown was ordered on Boxing Day.
The stay-at-home order lifts in Toronto and Peel Region on March 8 at 12:01 a.m.
Restrictions loosened in the rest of the province last month as regions moved back to the government’s colour-coded pandemic response framework.
Toronto and Peel will stay in the grey lockdown level for at least two weeks and there will be continual reassessments of the status.
“In the end, the decision about whether we’re a grey or red is up to Premier Doug Ford,” Tory said to guest host Peter Shurman on Global News Radio 640 Toronto. “And now I have in this case indicated I support the recommendations of [Toronto’s medical officer of health] Dr. Eileen de Villa to go [grey].”
Tory said he understands people want to be in the red zone, where businesses such as gyms and hair salons can open, but pointed to the fact that other types of retail will be allowed to open under grey, under capacity restrictions.
“But the bottom line is that the red zone is generally at a threshold of 40 cases per 100,000. We’re at 72. Peel is at 100,” Tory said.
“Every jurisdiction in the world has found that a cautious reopening is the right way to go in order to avoid what I’ve been trying to avoid in making decisions about what’s right,” he continued.
“I really believe that if we move too quickly, we’ll be locked down again on the 1st of May, just as the patios are opening and we really are in spring.”
Tory said that while numbers may appear to be going down or remaining steady, variant cases have continued to go up, doubling in Toronto over the past week.
“I’m not saying that means we’re going to be in a crisis with regard to the variants, but … I have a responsibility … and we have lost, over the course of the pandemic in the city of Toronto, 2,600 people have died. And thousands upon thousands of people have had this virus and some will have lasting effects on their health from it,” he said.
Peel Region’s medical officer of health Dr. Lawrence Loh also recommended his region move to grey instead of red. Tory said, however, it is the province that makes the decision in the end.
Tory said despite the announcement Friday, he will start to look “tomorrow” at when the next opportunity will be to move into the red zone.
“That will be based in part, yes, on the numbers from de Villa, but also in consideration with what is going on with the rest of the region. What’s going on in the business community … and what’s going on with public mentality.”
He highlighted the fact that he was told thousands of people from Toronto allegedly went to Durham and York regions, both in the red zone, to go shopping and said he knows that’s not “conducive to trying to get people to stay home and not have the spread of the virus.”
“So, you have to be realistic about all of these things.”
On Friday, Ontario reported 1,250 more coronavirus cases, bringing the provincial total to 306, 007 since the onset of the pandemic. Toronto reported 337 cases and Peel Region reported 167.
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