stores open in toronto

Thousands travelled to other regions to shop before stores opened in Toronto

In the weeks before Toronto entered the grey zone of the province's response framework and retail stores reopened, thousands of residents travelled to other regions with fewer restrictions to go shopping, according to recent cell phone data shared by the city.

Mayor John Tory and Dr. Eileen de Villa revealed the major findings from the anonymous mobility data on Monday during the city's COVID-19 press briefing, and they said that more Toronto residents have been travelling to other regions while people from outside the city are also coming in.

"It's thousands of people going literally to shopping malls that were open… yes there's that," Tory said.

"But every day you just look at the traffic cams on the Gardiner, the Parkway, the 400, people pouring into Toronto to come to work and in many cases we need them to come to work," Tory continued.

"But I think the more of those people — as we've said all the way along — that can stay home... except for a very rare weekly shopping trip out and that kind of thing, will bridge that gap between today and when we get people vaccinated in very high numbers."

Dr. de Villa meanwhile explained that the most recent figures that measure device time at home show a decline to 78.6 per cent — meaning fewer people in Toronto are staying close to home than they were just weeks ago.

"The data also indicated more Torontonians were travelling to areas where restrictions were lower. We're on the move again, and although the risks remain, in some respects they are higher than ever because of COVID-19 variants," she said.

"I'm sharing this as a reminder that what we all do in our daily lives going forward is the key to preventing, or at least limiting, the spread of variants."

The city's Medical Officer of Health shared her concerns about the increase in variants, indicating that 3,516 cases have screened positive for mutations since the beginning of February, and she urged residents to continue practicing self-protection measures until vaccines are widely available. 

She added that a decision about whether Toronto will remain in the grey zone or move on to red — which would allow for the reopening of restaurants, bars and hair salons — come March 22 will be made this week.

"A decision will be made this week about where we best fit in the provincial COVID-19 response framework," she said. 

"I want to be clear, I only recommend restrictions when they are necessary to protect the greatest number of people from widespread risk of infection. I share everyone's desire to get back to normal."

Lead photo by

Hector Vasquez

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