lockdown toronto malls

Shoppers jammed Yorkdale and other malls in Toronto ahead of lockdown

In an apparent bid to get all of their holiday shopping done in two days, thousands of people flocked to malls in and around Toronto this weekend with cash at the ready.

The goal was to head off new lockdown measures, which, as of 12:01 a.m. this morning, require all non-essential retail stores to stay closed (aside from delivery and curbside pick-up service) for at least 28 days.

The result was a city filled with lines and jam-packed shopping centres, akin to what we'd normally see on Boxing Day, but much more dangerous on account of a fast-spreading, highly-contagious and potentially deadly coronavirus.

Crtitics had warned that this kind of rush on malls might happen after the provincial government announced on Friday that a lockdown would come into effect for Toronto and Peel on Monday.

Eager consumers weren't content to relegate themselves to online shopping just yet, nor were retailers willing to throw in the towel on what's normally the industry's busiest earning period of the year.

Yorkdale, Square One and Scarborough Town Centre all extended their hours over the weekend in an effort to manage the rush.

The controversial move prompted some backlash online, but it did allow shoppers more time to brave the snow and risk contracting COVID-19 in the name of buying stuff.

Yorkdale Shopping Centre, which consistently ranks as the highest-grossing mall in all of Canada, got particularly hectic over the weekend, with cars sprawled as far as the eye could see waiting for parking spots to come free.

"Drove past Yorkdale today on the highway and was actually so disturbed by how busy it was," wrote one of many Twitter users who expressed their concerns this weekend. "If you decided to go to the mall at a time like this, right when it's closing (and for good reason), I have no respect for you!"

"People flocking to Yorkdale to hang out and Christmas shop only to end up missing Christmas because y'all are sick with Covid," wrote another. "Should have stayed home and shopped online!"

Others cracked jokes about how Yorkdale was having a "special" pre-lockdown sale: Free cases of COVID-19 with every purchase.

Not a great look for a mall that's been linked to several high-profile COVID cases and accused in recent months of failing to run a safe operation

Yorkdale was far from the only packed mall in the GTA, however.

"In about two weeks there will be a spike in cases," reads the caption of a photo posted to Instagram showing a rammed parking lot at Square One in Mississauga.

"People will claim the lockdown isn't working. After that there will be a climb in cases in Oakville and Milton, and people will wonder why."

The Eaton Centre, which did not extend its hours, was still incredibly busy considering the circumstances — though many of the crowds surrounding the mall were made up of anti-masker mobs.

Lineups could also be seen outside big box stores like Best Buy and Canadian Tire, which is actually permitted to stay open during this lockdown, prompting further derision on Twitter and worry among pretty much everyone.

It will take a few weeks to see if these new lockdown measures have any impact on slowing the spread of COVID-19 in Ontario, but with 1,589 new cases reported Monday morning — 535 in Peel and 336 in Toronto — it wouldn't be surprising to first see another spike correlating with this weekend's pre-lockdown purchasing frenzy.

Lead photo by

Lauren O'Neil

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