Shoppers in Toronto flooded stores and malls on Saturday as many tried to cram in last-minute holiday shopping before non-essential businesses close for nearly a month during the city’s looming lockdown.
Toronto and Peel Region are headed into a lockdown as of Monday, which will shutter most non-essential businesses including sit-down service in restaurants, gyms and hair salons. The lockdown is expected to last at least 28 days. Hamilton, Durham and York are all being placed in the province’s red zone.
Lineups at department stores stretched the length of city blocks in Toronto. Many said they were holiday shopping before retailers close.
Shopping malls, including Yorkdale Shopping Centre and Toronto Eaton Centre, and many hair salons extended their hours in order to meet the high demand.
Mimi Kypreos, a boutique owner in Toronto, said she is worried about facing an uncertain future come Monday.
“This has really rocked me because I survived the first time and I hustled like crazy,” Kypreos, owner of Mimi’s Boutique, told CTV News.
Kypreos said she is frustrated at the rules surrounding which businesses are allowed to remain open under Ontario’s lockdown restrictions.
“I can social distance, I can shut my doors, and I can have one client in here at a time. So I’m frustrated we’ve got Walmart open. How do you social distance in Walmart?”
Ontario Premier Doug Ford has urged residents to shop local as opposed to shopping online or through big-box retailers, but many of those larger stores will remain open in the lockdown while smaller independent businesses close their doors.
Ontario’s upcoming restrictions are designed to help limit the spread of COVID-19. Ontario broke its record for new daily cases on Saturday along with three other provinces: New Brunswick, Alberta and Saskatchewan.
Dr Lawrence Loh, Peel Region’s medical officer of health, said the new lockdown is necessary.
“This closure is needed now to get this under control in our communities to stop the flow into our hospitals, and to protect our schools and long-term care homes,” he said.
Dr. Isaac Bogoch, an infectious diseases specialist, said it’s yet to be seen how much of a difference Ontario’s lockdown will make, but he’s optimistic.
“It’s going to take time to see the results of a policy like this implemented,” Bogoch told CTV News Channel on Saturday.
But Colin Furness, an infection control epidemiologist, said he doesn’t see eye-to-eye with the province’s decision to shutter small businesses while allowing larger retailers with grocery aisles, like Costco and Walmart, to remain open.
“I don’t see a problem with hair stylists. I don’t see a problem with small stores. I do see a problem with big stores that are staying open,” he said.
Markham mayor Frank Scarpitti encouraged Ontarians to respect the lockdown rules and not to travel outside their home regions to shop in other areas with looser restrictions.
“The red zone is here for a reason. We have to curtail the number of cases. That’s everyone’s priority,” he said.
In Manitoba, a ban on in-person sales of non-essential items was announced on Thursday and took effect on Friday.
”I’m urging Winnipeggers to stay home and support local,” Winnipeg Mayor Brian Bowman told CTV News on Saturday. “If you have the means, support local, order in take-out and do your purchasing sooner than later.”
Canada reported 5,000 new cases of COVID-19 on Saturday. Since March, more than 324,000 Canadians have tested positive for COVID-19 and 11,406 have died.