durham region

Pickering tells people from Toronto to stay away now that Durham Region is open

Most of Ontario is now past the blanket shutdown of the province that went into effect in December, with all regions but Toronto, York, Peel and North Bay Parry Sound now able to reopen somewhat as they enter the colour-coded framework and have their stay-at-home order lifted.

But, with some businesses now open for the first time in weeks, certain municipalities have been asking residents of hotspot areas not to region-hop to visit, as much as it would help the struggling local economy.

The mayor of Pickering, the closest city to Toronto that is in the nearby region of Durham — which is in the Red-Control zone as of Tuesday — is the latest to implore Torontonians to stay away to avoid further COVID-19 transmission just as the province is recovering from the peak of the second wave.

Mayor Dave Ryan said during an interview with CP24 this week that he is begging people who aren't from the region "to stay in place and do what you can there."

"When things get back to normal we will open you with open arms but for the safety of yourself and certainly for our residents and our community we are asking you to stay at home," he continued.

Under red restrictions, bars and restaurants can open their doors to a maximum of 10 customers inside at a time, while gyms, all retail stores, event spaces, casinos, and businesses offering select personal care services can also reopen with stringent measures in place.

All of these are, of course, still closed in the urban centres still amid full shutdown, and will remain so if regions such as Toronto transition into the Grey-Lockdown zone as expected on Feb. 22 (with the exception of retail stores, which will be able to open with more prohibitive caps than in the red zone).

This has understandably caused those in neighbouring regions to wonder to what extent people will travel within the province to get a taste of life without the most heavy-handed iteration of lockdown measures — especially from Toronto and Peel, which have been under stringent restrictions for more than 12 weeks.

Earlier in the health crisis, more than 100,000 Torontonians did indeed travel to visit malls and other businesses that were still open in places like York and Hamilton.

Ryan, whose city is only about a half hour drive from downtown Toronto, said he is "very concerned" about out-of-towners now coming in and out of the region, adding that some businesses will be screening customers to check if they are in fact from Durham before permitting them entry.

The three regions that were first to see health and safety measures loosened earlier this month have likewise been trying to curb travelling visitors, with Hastings Prince Edward going as far as banning local businesses from accepting reservations from people who live in regions still subject to the stay-at-home order.

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