Toronto's mayor and top doctor urge province not to relax public health restrictions
Toronto Mayor John Tory and Medical Officer of Health Dr. Eileen de Villa separately urged the province not to relax public health restrictions in Toronto on Wednesday following Ontario Premier Doug Ford's statement that some measures could be lifted next week, citing variants of concern and the potential for another lockdown as reasons to be extra cautious.
Speaking to CP24 Wednesday morning, Tory said with the reopening of schools and lesser known COVID-19 variants circulating, public health experts are advising that the city proceed with great caution.
"The last thing we want, I think, is to open and then to close again," he said. "I'm for great caution with all of this and we're continuing to have discussions with the province and our medical experts."
Yesterday, 27 regions in Ontario moved out of the province's shutdown and stay-at-home order and into the colour-coded COVID-19 framework, leaving just Toronto Public Health, Peel Public Health, York Region Public Health and North Bay Parry Sound District — all of which are set to remain under the shutdown until at least Feb. 22.
At that point, COVID-19 indicators will be reevaluated and decisions will be made about which level of the framework each region will enter.
Premier Doug Ford, who prefers to call the process "transitioning" rather than "reopening," said the province will be consulting with the chief medical officer of health and the local medical officers to determine if they want to continue moving forward.
But while case rates, hospitalizations and other indicators have improved significantly over the past several weeks, Tory said the "dangerous," "unknown" and "unpredictable" new variants are reason for concern.
"To me, that suggests we should exercise great caution as a city and that the provincial government should do the same with respect to Toronto, the biggest city, the most densely populated city in the province," he said Wednesday morning.
Tory added that opening gradually, in stages, and only when public health experts say it's safe to do so are the keys to avoiding a third wave and another lockdown in the spring.
Speaking on Metro Morning Wednesday, de Villa expressed similar sentiments, explaining that there is evidence that these new variants can be extremely transmissible and dangerous.
"We're starting to see some evidence that in fact people may get more serious illness associated with this and more serious, severe outcomes," she said.
"I think, at this point in time, we should slow things down, be much more cautious, stay in a more restrictive state until such time as we are able to determine what's happening here with these new variants of concern and to ensure that we're able to operate our schools in as safe a manner as possible."
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