Toronto mayor says province should impose full lockdown to protect health-care system

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The mayor of Ontario's largest city called for a return to a full lockdown Monday, saying the move is necessary to prevent the health-care system from being completely overwhelmed by a surge of COVID-19 cases.

John Tory stressed the "urgency of acting quickly" in enacting new restrictions, a day before the provincial government is expected to announce a series of additional pandemic measures.

The mayor said he would like to see more businesses closed, including big-box stores, so that people have fewer reasons to leave their homes.

"There are things that were closed in the spring when we had much more encouraging results," he said.

While Tory said he would like to see more rule-breakers face fines, he noted there aren't enough resources for that level of enforcement, adding people must go back to following the guidelines like they did last spring.

"No matter what the province ultimately implements it is important for all of us right now to exercise our own personal responsibility and stay home as much as possible," he said.

Neither the mayor nor the city's top public health doctor expressed support for a curfew, as has been implemented in Quebec.

Dr. Eileen de Villa said there isn't much evidence at this time to suggest curfews are effective in curbing the spread of COVID-19.

But she said wage supports for workers who need to get tested or isolate after a positive result would enable people to make the right choices.

Tory said Toronto will consider if there are any additional steps it can take once the province announces its new measures, but he noted rules tend to be more effective when applied to the entire province or at least regionally. He said there may also be questions as to whether the city has the jurisdiction to impose certain changes itself.

All of Ontario is currently under a lockdown that began on Boxing Day, although it is not as strict as a provincewide shutdown imposed at the start of the pandemic.

The current lockdown is set to last until Jan. 23 but the premier has said it may need to be extended and stricter measures may need to be imposed as the province grapples with soaring rates of COVID-19.

The province reported 3,338 new cases of COVID-19 on Monday, 931 of them in Toronto.

Meanwhile, the city is expected to open a COVID-19 vaccination clinic at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre next week, which officials said was ahead of schedule.

The clinic is expected to operate seven days a week for six weeks, and administer first and second doses of a vaccine to health-care workers during that time.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 11, 2021.

Paola Loriggio, The Canadian Press