Many areas within the Greater Toronto Area, including the Peel region, went into lockdown on November 23 after the Ontario government labeled the areas a Covid-19 grey zone. The lockdown is set to stay in place for a minimum of 28 days, upon which the situation will be reassessed, and updated guidelines will be determined.
Other regions such as Durham and Waterloo were moved into the red zone, the control level before the grey zone where a lockdown is enforced.
The guidelines for the second lockdown look similar to those seen earlier in the year. Close physical contact is restricted to members of a single household, and a two-metre distance is required between others. Indoor gatherings are entirely prohibited, and outdoor gatherings where distancing is possible are limited to 10 people.
Schools and childcare facilities are set to remain open alongside other essential businesses, provided they adhere to the guidelines specified by the province. Weddings, funerals, and in-person religious services are limited to 10 people. Moreover, in-person retail locations are restricted to 50 per cent patron capacity. Recreational facilities and personal care services, including hair and nail salons, spas, and more, have been closed in the Peel region.
Ontario has reported more than 115,000 Covid-19 cases so far, and more than 3,600 deaths.
Mississauga Mayor Bonnie Crombie discussed her concerns for the rising Covid-19 cases in a news release on November 21.
“The sobering reality is that Covid-19 cases and hospitalizations have been rising at an alarming rate in Mississauga over the last month, and I firmly believe these new measures are the only way we can avoid school closures, further spread in our long-term care homes, and overburdening our hospitals,” stated Crombie. “It is the only way to avoid preventable deaths in Mississauga.”
The burdens facing small businesses during the global pandemic continue to be a cause for concern, especially for those located in areas with stricter lockdown regulations. The Canadian Federation of Independent Businesses (CFIB), representing more than 110,000 small and mid-sized businesses across the country, argues that the lockdown has been disastrous for small businesses.
“It is outrageous that today’s restrictions once again create an unfair advantage for big-box operators like Walmart and Costco, leaving Main Street retailers to shoulder the burden alone,” stated the CFIB in a statement.
The federation continued the statement by emphasizing the disparities between large corporations and independent businesses and how financial disadvantages are enforced on the latter.
“That large department stores can be open while small retailers are forced to close during the busiest season of the year is a direct punch to the gut of independent businesses,” read the CFIB statement. “Many businesses in these regions have already lost three to five months of their year from government shutdowns.”
The new “normal” under a global pandemic could mean the end for quite a few independent businesses if they cannot receive the economic support they so gravely require.
“Without immediate and full assistance, many won’t survive,” stated the CFIB. “Seeing any of these businesses close permanently would be a loss for owners, employees, communities, and Ontario’s overall recovery effort.”
On November 26, the Peel regional council passed a motion calling for the Ontario government to increase their support for the smaller retailers. The motion was proposed by Mississauga Mayor Bonnie Crombie, who emphasized the significance of the issue to the community.
“It’s our attempt to level the playing field,” stated Crombie to CBC News. “What’s fundamentally unfair is that our local stores have been forced to close while people are flocking to the big box stores.”
The motion’s initial demand was big-box retailers to be banned from selling non-essential goods. However, the motion was amended to ask the province to revise the rules for businesses in areas of lockdown instead.
“While [the amended motion] doesn’t limit big box stores from selling non-essential items, it’s a strong message that we need more help for small businesses,” wrote Crombie in a tweet on November 26.
Following the council’s three-hour-long debate, the final motion states that the province will look into methods to help independent businesses rather than a specific action.
With the holiday and gift-giving season getting into full-steam, local businesses are at risk of shutting down and not making it to the next year. Government and public health officials have continuously encouraged people to shop local and take advantage of the delivery or curbside pick-up options.
“Our small businesses are run by our families, our friends, and our neighbours in our community,” said Crombie in a press conference on November 25. “We cannot afford to see them close their doors permanently as a result of this lockdown.”