What to expect from Toronto's Stage 2 reopening
Canada’s largest city will reopen restaurant patios, shopping malls and swimming pools on Wednesday after officials determined that the COVID-19 virus is under control.
“We’re winning the fight, but it’s not over,” Ontario Premier Doug Ford said at a news conference Monday, while cautioning residents to use common sense and continue to social distance. “It can turn and bite us in the backside in about a heartbeat.”
The country’s financial center has also been one of its COVID hotspots. As of June 21, Toronto had reported 13,893 cases and 1,044 fatalities since the start of the outbreak. Almost 11,900 people have recovered.
A pedestrian walks on the sidewalk in the financial district of Toronto, Ontario, Canada, on Friday, May 22, 2020. Whether the PATH, a subterranean network that provides connections between major commuter stations, over 80 properties, including the headquarters of Canada's five largest banks, and 1,200 retail spots, can return to its glory days will depend initially on how quickly Bay St. firms return workers to their offices.
The Peel region, which is west of Toronto, will also be allowed to move into “stage two” of the province’s reopening plan. However, the Windsor-Essex area will have to wait until outbreaks among temporary foreign workers on farms in the area are brought under control, Ford said.
“No one wants to see every region of Ontario opened more than I do, but we have to do it right, and unfortunately right now the threat of this virus in Windsor-Essex is still too great,” he said.
Part of the delay can be blamed on the agriculture sector, he said.
“Farmers just aren’t cooperating,” he said. “They aren’t sending the people out to be tested.”
On Monday, New York City entered phase two of its reopening plans with similar types of businesses allowed to unlock their doors. Still, things won’t quite be back to normal as shoppers should be prepared to wear face masks and physically distance from others. Manhattan restaurants are allowed to offer only outdoor seating.
Toronto Mayor John Tory will focus on supporting more businesses to open safely and successfully.
“We are ready for stage two,” Tory said in a briefing Monday. “We will keep making good progress and we will move safely but hopefully quickly into stage three.”
Mayors of the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area also released a statement reminding all levels of government about the financial hole municipalities are in because of the lockdown.
“We understand discussions are underway between the federal government and the provincial government to come to an agreement to meaningfully address the financial challenge municipalities are facing,” they said in a statement released Monday. “We support this process but we hope it is resolved with a positive outcome as quickly as possible.”
Toronto’s downtown core has been quiet since shutdowns to contain the virus were implemented in early March. The city has remained under partial lockdown as most of the rest of the province moved into Stage Two earlier this month.
It’s not clear how much Toronto’s financial district will be affected by today’s news. Two dozen major Toronto employers -- including Canada’s key banks and insurers -- have said they intend to keep most downtown staff home until at least September.
Ford thanked Ontarians for their hard work during the lockdown.
“Because of them, because of their efforts, we’re beating this virus,” he said.