The four-week lockdown began Monday to slow the city’s surging Covid-19 cases. Residents will be required to stay home and only interact with those in their own households, but schools will remain open.
“It is challenging for us, but it’s our societal obligation to do it,” one shopper told CNN as they waited in line at a grocery store. “I think we’ve got to get this under control,” another said, “but it sucks for most of these people that are running these small businesses.”
Daily cases have nearly doubled in a matter of weeks, ICUs are near capacity and with more than 1,500 coronavirus deaths, officials say a strict lockdown must be enforced to avoid a worst-case scenario.
“It’s quite clear, we’re in a lot of trouble,” Dr. Irfan Dhalla, vice president of physician quality at Unity Health Toronto, told CNN. “Our public health officials and our elected leaders decided there really was no other choice but to take a big step back.”
Dhalla said that hospitalizations in Ontario are often near capacity during a normal winter for influenza, and a surge in cases could mean hospitals will be unable to provide high quality care.
All dining, non-essential shopping, salons and gyms will now be closed as the city tackles its growing case count. Even the city’s NBA team had to find a temporary home, with the Raptors moving to Florida for the duration of the shutdown.
Mayor John Tory said he knows this new lockdown will be difficult, but less of a challenge than dealing with the devastating effects of climbing cases and deaths. “There’s no question a second lockdown will be tough here,” Tory said. “But what’s been even tougher to think about are the consequences if it doesn’t work.”
Concerned workers worry that the second lockdown could be a deathblow to their already struggling industry.
Businesses worry about financial impact
HOTHOUSE restaurant managers Adam Joe and Arif Ahmed told CNN they used to have 100 employees and were even able to keep half of them on the payroll due to their large patio.
But the latest lockdown, which bans outdoor dining, will require them to scale back even further.
Joe described feeling “a little crestfallen” with the lockdown. “I wouldn’t say I was shocked … we’ve been following the numbers, and the ups and downs, and you can feel that there’s some hesitation to really penalize people who are struggling.”
“It is, you know, scary,” Ahmed said.
While Toronto and suburb Peel will be on lockdown, surrounding areas will not be. That means city dwellers may feel inclined to go to other areas to freely shop, dine and gather.
“We’ve agonized over these decisions about the impact on business and so on,” Tory said, “but I think the impact will be way less than if we left it and we got into the kind of territory we’ve seen elsewhere.”
Officials hoping for success in second lockdown
The previous lockdown in April was deemed mostly successful in cutting down the number of new cases. But while the case counts were lowered, Dhalla said, the virus was not conquered.
“The case counts started to gradually increase at first and then they started to rise quite quickly,” he said, adding that despite new restrictions, cases and deaths continue to grow in Toronto.
“We’re in a lot of trouble,” the doctor said. “If we had worked a little bit harder in the summer and really built up our capacity to test, to contact trace, to isolate, to support people who need help … it is possible that we wouldn’t be in this situation now.”
Last lockdown, the efforts were focused to help those in elder care communities, Tory said. The focus on this next round is to curb spread among “marginalized populations who have seen a much more extensive virus spread than other parts of the population,” Tory told CNN.
The mayor said perhaps the city opened up quicker than it should have before and didn’t focus hard enough on the communities most in need. The issue now is complacency amongst the population and gatherings of young people has led to a sharp uptick in cases, the mayor said.
“The lockdown will help us to get a greater grip on all of this,” Tory said.