Businesses face reality that 28-day lockdown likely won't end early

·2 min read

Businesses that were optimistic Ottawa might exit the 28-day lockdown for eastern and southern Ontario early are now coming to grips with the fact Ottawa's top doctor says that's unlikely to happen.

After Premier Doug Ford announced the four-week shutdown for the southern parts of the province, Dr. Vera Etches, Ottawa's medical officer of health, and Mayor Jim Watson cited a number of COVID-19 indicators that — at the time — were low enough to give hope Ottawa might leave lockdown after only two weeks.

But those indicators have now risen, with Etches saying last week a 14-day lockdown is no longer realistic.

"I was hoping for the 14, but the 28, it's not like it should be that much of a surprise," said Terry Fitzpatrick co-proprietor of Petit Bill's Bistro on Wellington Street W.

Fitzpatrick said his restaurant was planning to close for 10 days after New Year's Eve regardless, but they'd hope to open up soon after that. He said he's feels fortunate his customers have been ordering takeout, and hopes the province will offer restaurants more support if the lockdown extends beyond 28 days.

"I think giving us a glimmer of hope might have been the wrong idea ... I think, had they made [reopening] surprise after 14 days, rather than suggesting [ahead of time] we might do it, I think it would make people a little less agitated."

At The Fitness Lab, founder Adam Bracken said he was also hoping for a 14-day lockdown as January is one of the local gym chain's busiest times.

"Generally speaking, September and January are our two big months, so it's a way for us to kind of play some catch-up," Bracken said.

"And especially with this year, it would have been nice to get maybe a couple more memberships or some extra revenue coming in in those months. But unfortunately, we're behind the eight ball again."

Laura Osman/CBC
Laura Osman/CBC

Dennis Van Staalduinen, executive director for the Wellington West Business Improvement Area, said at least 15 businesses in his area have already closed permanently, and he's worried the 28-day lockdown will only increase that number.

Van Staalduinen said businesses need more predictability so they can plan better, noting that the province initially said it would base restrictions on local infection rates before making a provincewide lockdown decision.

He called that change of plans a "big gut punch."

"We build our sense of our community and our neighborhood around our urban main streets," he said. "Anything that undermines that fabric, that continuity, is going to be damaging to the neighbourhood. And it's going to be very hard to come back from that because people's patterns will change."

"We would ask the provincial government not do [that] again, that they set clear rules and they follow their own rules."