Ontario Liberal Leader Steven Del Duca believes that York Region should have stayed under the provisional lockdown and stay-at-home orders for an additional two weeks after businesses and malls in the area were flocked with customers on the first day of the economic reopening.
York Region was formally designated a ‘red-control’ zone on Monday, which allows all shops to reopen their doors for indoor shopping and restaurants to restart indoor dining with strict capacity limits, the first taste of normalcy in 10 weeks.
The reopening was instantly met with long ques at malls and other businesses, causing Markham’s mayor to enforce additional restrictions like extra capacity limits on big-box retailers and grocery stores.
Del Duca, who resides in York Region and represented the riding of Vaughan-Woodbridge till 2018, additionally questioned whether the region should have been moved into the province’s color-coded reopening framework in the first place.
“I don’t think York region should have moved out ahead of Toronto and Peel,” Del Duca told reporters at Queen’s Park.
The Liberal leader highlighted York Region’s weekly incidence rate of 77.38 case for every 100,000 people, which at the time of the decision to put the region into the red zone last week, surpassed Toronto’s per capita case count of 72.86.
The threat of the COVID variants additionally created sufficient concern in Peel Region and Toronto that the local health officers sent a letter to Ontario’s Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. David Williams asking for a 2-week extension of the lockdown orders till March 8, which was accepted.
“I’m not quite sure how Dr. [Lawrence] Loh and Dr. [Eileen] De Villa saw one thing and their colleague in York Region saw something different,” Del Duca said
“With the new variants in place and the new concern being expressed from epidemiologists and experts across the spectrum, it would have been more prudent for York Region to move in lockstep with Toronto and Peel.”
Dr. Karim Kurji, York Region’s Medical Officer of Health, has on many occasions said that since the area dealt with outbreaks of the B.1.1.7 variant in early January, the region is in a better position to fight additional outbreaks.
Del Duca additionally suggested that those travelling from Toronto and Peel should be restricted from shopping at businesses in York, to help contain virus spread.
“You don’t require a border to be closed, it’s as simple as asking someone walking into a store or a commercial setting to show some form of identification with an address,” Del Duca said.
Whereas Premier Doug Ford said Ontario can’t watch the 14.7 million people living in the province, the state is unwilling to have police checks or have roadblocks to enforce the stay-at-home order, which Del Duca believes is a mistake.
“We’ve seen this movie before, it happened last time because York went out ahead of Toronto and Peel… and the same thing happened, the malls, the stores etc. in York Region were flooded [with] people who came from different parts of the province, like Toronto and Peel that were still locked down.”