essential workers ontario

New data shows most people in Toronto are still going into work and deemed essential

While we all continue to hunker down alone in our homes, only leaving for groceries and other necessary trips as ordered by the provincial government, there are those among us who still spend the majority of their time in the outside world for work purposes — a shocking number of us in Toronto, in fact.

New estimates put the proportion of residents deemed "essential workers" in the GTA to be nearly two thirds of the population, around 65 per cent or more than two million individuals, according to an analysis by the Star.

The number is concerning given that many have understandably been under the impression that the heavy-handed lockdown we've been under for weeks on end in an attempt to curb COVID-19 transmission has been keeping most people at home.

But the lockdown caveat for those who must leave their homes to work in jobs that serve absolutely essential purposes for daily life actually applies to the majority of citizens of the Toronto area, a virus hotspot of the province.

Outbreaks at meat packing plants and other factories, at postal facilities, among migrant workers, in the grocery and food service industry, on construction sites and more only make this data more worrisome, and have led to calls from some health officials for more restrictions in some sectors to keep workers safe.

Peel Medical Officer of Health Dr. Lawrence Loh, for example, has asked for limits on online shopping to help cut down on the staff that have to go into postal warehouses, as well as employee caps in some settings and a re-evaluation of Ontario's list of essential businesses.

This is in light of the ongoing outbreak at a Mississauga Canada Post location, as well as a recent survey from Loh's region that showed pretty shockingly how some essential workers are still going into work with COVID symptoms, which could be in part because essential workers, data shows, receive little-to-no paid sick leave.

They also tend to be those earning the lowest wages and are often new arrivals to Canada, working in congregate living settings, in food service, at grocery stores, in warehouses and manufacturing plants.

As daily new case counts slowly drop and the province continues to mull over what it will take for lockdown measures to be lessened in the province, we will have to see whether the category of "essential worker" are re-assessed and whether further protections for certain industries as brought in.

Meanwhile, it's prudent to keep in mind that it's not only non-essential travel and the odd gathering with loved ones that are the sole cause of high COVID numbers in recent weeks.

Lead photo by

Hector Vasquez

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