Toronto and Peel Region will be allowed to open more businesses and services on Wednesday, including restaurant patios and hair salons, but the Windsor area will have to wait because of an increase in COVID-19 cases among migrant workers.
Toronto and Peel, which includes the cities of Mississauga and Brampton, will move to Stage 2 of the province’s reopening plan on Wednesday, leaving Windsor-Essex as the only region in Ontario that remains stuck in Stage 1.
“No one wants to see every region of Ontario open more than I do, but we have to do it right,” Premier Doug Ford said on Monday. “Unfortunately, right now the threat of this virus in Windsor-Essex is still too great.”
Mr. Ford expressed frustration with some farmers, who he said weren’t assisting with the province’s efforts to test more migrant workers for COVID-19, and said he would use unspecified tools to make it happen. Windsor-Essex reported 62 new cases of COVID-19 over the past two days, and there are 8,000 migrant workers in the region.
“Farmers just aren’t co-operating there and sending out the people to get tested,” Mr. Ford said. “It’s not fair to all the people outside of … the farming community. Just co-operate and we can get through this, we’ll do whatever we can to protect you, protect the workers, but it’s not fair to the people of Windsor and Essex. I feel sorry for them, I really do, they want to get back to work.”
Windsor Mayor Drew Dilkens said he was disappointed that his city was not included in the Stage 2 reopening plan. He said Mr. Ford is “100-per-cent correct” about farmers holding the region back, but he called on both the federal and provincial governments to make it mandatory for migrant workers to be tested for COVID-19 in order to be employed on a farm. There are approximately 175 farms in the region.
“I don’t think anything will change here materially until [Mr. Ford] implements some of those other tools,” Mr. Dilkens said. “I’ve got businesses on the cusp of losing everything and going under, and everyone here is ready to go.”
Toronto and Peel will join other regions in the Greater Toronto Area, which moved to Stage 2 last Friday, in allowing outdoor restaurant and bar patios, hair salons, shopping malls, outdoor pools and splash pads to reopen.
Eileen de Villa, Toronto’s Medical Officer of Health, praised the actions of health care workers and residents in taming the virus enough that the city could go to Stage 2. But she warned that people will need to maintain good hygiene, keep distance from those with whom they don’t live and consider wearing a non-medical mask to reduce the chance of transmission.
“We are not completely out of the woods yet, we need to continue this vigilance,” Dr. de Villa told the city’s afternoon briefing.
“As more people start to move out and about, as we move towards reopening, it means that there is greater opportunity for people to mix and interact with each other … you can expect that there is increased risk and therefore the potential for more COVID-19 cases to come up.”
In photos: A visual look at reopening activities across Canada
Asked about crowding Saturday at one of the city’s beaches – which Mr. Ford likened to South Beach in Miami – Toronto Mayor John Tory said that such situations happen in part because people have fewer normal places to go. That effect should be lessened by the Stage 2 reopening, he said.
The city has increased the number of bylaw officers and litter collectors to attend to beaches, the mayor said, but he warned that it was too extensive to patrol thoroughly.
“We don’t have enough people to do that, and some would even question whether you allocate resources to do that,” Mr. Tory said.
Ontario reported 161 new cases of COVID-19 Monday, as well as three deaths. Toronto reported 36 new cases; Peel had 44.
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