ontario lockdown

More than 100,000 people from Toronto region-hopped before the latest lockdown

During those few weeks when Toronto was in a stiffer iteration of lockdown than other parts of Ontario, it was fair to assume that residents were region-hopping to be able to do things like shop, eat out and access personal care services, even if they were being asked not to.

Now, new data has revealed exactly the extent to which inter-region travel took place in the GTA.

Approximately 101,500 people traveled outside of their home region and into less locked down areas in just one week's time over the holidays, according to cell phone mobility data recently shared with the Star.

Within the seven days before the entire province moved into a full blanket lockdown on Dec. 26, citizens flocked from already-shuttered Toronto, Peel and York to various shopping centres that were still operating in nearby jurisdictions.

Some businesses embraced the trend, such as CF Lime Ridge Mall in Hamilton, which actually extended its opening hours starting Dec. 14 —the day York Region adopted stringent grey-level restrictions — to "help spread out traffic and allow more time for visitors to shop safely."

Others did the opposite, going as far as IDing patrons to verify that they were actually locals, and turning them away if they had come from other public health regions.

The province had issues with non-essential travel across regions from the get go after it implemented the framework that mandated forced closures in only some communities, especially when it came to the movement of essential workers from lower-income neighbourhoods, shoppers hitting up malls in neighbouring regions and people with residences in multiple different parts of the province.

The public was at one point advised not to go to cottages and vacation properties, but Premier Doug Ford more recently said it's fine as long as you bring your own food and supplies from your home region and hunker down.

In general, the rule has been to limit all trips outside the home as much as possible, but people have still been not only region-hopping, but embarking on international travel to party in Miami, Puerto Vallarta and other notoriously restriction-free parts of the world.

Ford has been very vocal in demanding that the federal government take further action to tighten borders and prohibit vacationing, which he feels has been a top contributor to virus spread and high case counts.

In the New Year, Ottawa enacted rules requiring all incoming air passengers to show proof of a negative COVID-19 test before being permitted entry to the country — even Canadian residents — with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau reiterating that "no one" should be taking non-essential trips right now, whether it be to another country or just another part of your province.

Lead photo by

Sebastian Zdyb

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