Premier Doug Ford says he needs to see “hard evidence” before agreeing to shut down indoor dining in the country’s largest city, which continues to see a rapid surge in new COVID-19 infections.
Speaking to reporters at Queen’s Park on Monday, Ford said he is not yet convinced that the province needs to further restrict dining at restaurants and bars in Toronto as requested by the city’s medical officer of health last week.
“These are people that have put their life in these small restaurants and they put everything they have and I have to be 100 per cent, I’ve proven before we will do it in a heartbeat, but I have to see the evidence before I take someone’s livelihood away from them,” he told reporters.
“I want to exhaust every single avenue before I ruin someone’s life. It is easy to go in there and say I’m just shutting down everything. Show me the evidence, hard, hard evidence.”
In an open letter published Friday to Ontario’s Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. David Williams, Toronto’s medical officer of health, Dr. Eileen de Villa, asked the province to give officials in Toronto the power to ban indoor dining and cancel indoor group fitness classes and sports activities in an effort to slow the spread of the virus.
She warned that “without quick action,” there is an “acute risk that the virus will continue to spread widely” in the city.
When asked whether the province plans to implement additional restrictions in Toronto, Williams said Monday that the public health measures table “will continue to look at that.”
Williams said that additional measures were taken on Friday, when the province announced that no more than 100 customers are allowed in restaurants at one time and no more than six people can be seated at a table, restrictions that were already in place in Toronto.
“I know Dr. de Villa was concerned and wanted to take even more extensive measures as noted in her communications,” Williams said on Monday.
“We want to see what the impact was thus far with the processes put in place. We are continuing to ask them to give more data to make sure it supports any further steps so we can handle that. And then looking at aspects of what can they do in Toronto? What we can do? What can they do in Ottawa?”
The province recorded 615 new cases of COVID-19 on Monday with nearly half of those cases coming from Toronto.
Eighty-eight new infections were recorded in Peel Region and 81 were in Ottawa.
“We are trying to put all our things together to understand how best to handle these big surges that we are seeing in Toronto and Ottawa at this time to give them the best capability to respond and to deal with it in a way that meets the needs and is targeted but at the same time protects the public at large not only from COVID but other issues as well,” Williams said.
Speaking to reporters at city hall on Monday, de Villa said while she has not spoken to the premier, she recently had a “very productive” conversation with Williams about additional restrictions in Toronto.
“We are actively in conversation with our provincial counterparts, and I think there are many, many points on which we agree,” she said.
“I think they need the time to look at what they’ve got to understand it in the perspective of the other data sources that they have. And I look forward to this continuing conversation occurring quickly, cooperatively, collaboratively, and in support of the people of Ontario.”
She noted that the city provides the province with up-to-date data on COVID-19 cases in Toronto on a daily basis along with specific information on clusters and outbreaks.
“We are constantly collaborating (and) happy to provide data to help support decisions being made,” she added.
Mayor John Tory said he has spoken with the premier about the situation in Toronto and believes the province is carefully considering the city’s request.
“They have their own decision-making process and their own need to seek advice on something that we transmitted to them on Friday. I am absolutely convinced that they have been acting in good faith since that time,” Tory said.
“They will put it into their decision-making apparatus sooner rather than later and have some response to that.”
Be cautious when travelling to COVID-19 hotspots: Williams
Ontario’s top doctor was also asked about whether people should avoid travel to COVID-19 hotspots as cases continue to climb in those regions.
“As far as internal provincial travel restrictions, we have not put those in place,” Williams said. “We know that areas in Toronto, Peel and Ottawa are having issues at this time and we are continuing to monitor that.”
He said those who do have to travel to those regions for essential reasons must continue to be cautious and practice physical distancing, wear masks, and keep up good hand hygiene.
“You have to be very judicious about your choice of when to travel and where to travel,” he said.