Ford suggests province will grant Toronto, Peel request for delay easing restrictions

Premier Doug Ford suggested Thursday that his government would grant a request from Toronto and Peel Region to remain under a stay-at-home order for two more weeks.


Premier Doug Ford suggested Thursday that his government would grant a request from Toronto and Peel Region to remain under a stay-at-home order for two more weeks.


The two COVID-19 hot spots are set to have their strict pandemic restrictions loosened on Monday but have asked for a delay, saying easing measures next week could lead to more illness and death.

A decision on those two regions, as well as York Region and North Bay, which also remain under a stay-home order, is expected Friday.

Ford said Thursday that he’s “always supported local medical officers of health.”

“No one understands their area, in Peel and Toronto, more than their local medical officers of health,” he said. “I’m sure we’re gonna follow the advice of the doctors.”

During question period at Queen’s Park, Christine Elliott said “there is a new load of data coming in tonight that is going to determine the recommendation that Dr. Williams will be making to the government with respect to the situation in both Peel and Toronto”

Elliott also reiterated government talking points, saying it is not a reopening per se, but a “transition” to the new reopening framework.

She also said the government can pull the trigger on an emergency break to put areas back into lockdown, though its not clear what the criteria are to use that option.

On Wednesday, Toronto’s Medical Officer of Health Dr. Eileen de Villa called for the city’s stay-at-home measures to be extended for at least another two weeks, citing concerns that the COVID-19 variants of concern could lead to “exponential spread” in the region.

Dr. de Villa along with the Medical Officer of Health for Peel Region, Dr. Lawrence Loh, officially made the request to delay loosening restrictions in their regions in a letter to Dr. David Williams, Ontario’s chief medical officer.

During the city’s COVID-19 update that day, Dr. de Villa said she has “never been more worried about the future than I am today.”

Ford said the province was also concerned about variants.

“We have to keep our guard up constantly,” he said.

Meanwhile, Dr. David Williams, the province’s chief medical officer, said he needed to review more data before making a recommendation on Toronto and Peel to the government.

“It’s not just a rigid number that flips the switch,” he said. “It’s a combination of qualitative and quantitative information that feeds into it. That gives us the best advice when we give that up to the ministers and cabinet.”

Williams added that while the province’s cases continue to trend downward, Ontario remains in a “precarious” place because of the variant strains.

York Region’s medical officer of health, however, has said his community is ready to see an easing of the strictest measures.

Dr. Karim Kurji said Thursday that he has recommended York be placed in the red – or second-strictest – category of the province’s tiered restrictions system. Under that category, people can access fitness facilities and dine indoors at restaurants, with limits on capacity.

Kurji said his public health unit is concerned about the mental health and economic impacts of the lockdown. He added that public health authorities are still asking people to say home except for essential trips.

The new variants of COVID-19 – of which York Region has detected 258 cases – are concerning, but an aggressive vaccine strategy and other measures will help keep cases low, he said.

“With enhanced restrictions in the Red-Control Zone, along with our strategies for aggressive case and contact investigation and enforcement, we can keep this in check,” Kurji said in a statement.

“We are hopeful for the future.”

Markham mayor Frank Scarpitti endorsed the recommendations put forth by Dr. Kurji and asked for additional restrictions. Among them, no indoor social gatherings outside of members of the same immediate household; reducing capacity limits in grocery stories from 75- to 50 per cent whiel big box retailers and malls be restricted to 25 per cent capacity; personal service and small business restricted to 50 per cent capacity; and large sporting and recreational facilities remaining closed.

“York Region is seeing a flattening of cases, including the variants,” said Scarpitti. “Although the variants pose a risk, Dr. Kurji believes that currently the Region is keeping the variants in-check and under heavy surveillance. York Region has aggressive and close contact management of the variants.”

Scarpitti said even though the region will be partially reopened next week, he asked residents to continue staying at home whenever possible and going out only for essential trips.

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