Published Wednesday, February 17, 2021 3:35PM EST
Last Updated Wednesday, February 17, 2021 3:36PM EST
Speaking at a news conference at city hall on Wednesday afternoon, Toronto’s Medical Officer of Health Dr. Eileen de Villa said she is asking the province to keep strict lockdown measures in place in the city for at least another two weeks before considering easing any of the current restrictions.
“We absolutely do not want to find ourselves opening up, even slightly, and then having to close down again just a few weeks from now. With the promise of vaccinations upon us, we need to ensure that this lockdown that we’re presently in is the last one,” she told reporters.
The Ford government previously indicated that the regions could return to its colour-coded reopening system as soon as next week, but both Toronto and Peel Region’s medical officers of health have advised against that.
Mayor John Tory said he supports the decision to keep Toronto closed in the interim.
When asked about how the variants could impact this year’s CafeTO program, a city initiative launched last summer to help struggling bars and restaurants build or expand patios during the pandemic, Tory said keeping the city locked down now could prevent a lockdown later this spring.
Tory has said the earliest patios could open as part of the CafeTO program is in early May.
“I guess we all would want to have our fingers crossed that we do the right thing that the doctor has recommended in terms of being prudent about reopening and it will still allow us to actually have CafeTO patios open and not be in another lockdown by then,” he said.
“(That) is precisely what we are trying to avoid is having an opening and then be back into lockdown right when those patios will be opening in May.”
Restaurants have been closed in Toronto since Nov. 23, when another lockdown was imposed during the second wave of the pandemic.
Bars and restaurants are still permitted to offer takeout and delivery during the lockdown but in-person dining is prohibited.
As of this week, bars and restaurants were allowed to reopen in Halton and Durham regions with reduced capacity.
York Region’s medical officer of health has asked that his region enter the red or “control” zone of the province’s reopening framework next week, which would allow many businesses, including restaurants, hair salons, and gyms, to reopen.