Burlington mall

People in Toronto are travelling to Hamilton and Burlington to shop at malls and retail stores

With the holidays fast approaching and shopping forbidden at non-essential retail stores in Toronto and Peel, some people are getting sneaky in an attempt to buy stuff at malls.

You see, only Peel and Toronto are currently in the grey "lockdown" zone of Ontario's colour-coded COVID restriction framework: Our neighbouring regions of York, Durham, Halton, Hamilton and Waterloo are all under red "restrict" public health measures right now.

What's to stop someone from driving across Steeles, from North York into Vaughan, for some hot, hot Black friday deals today? Or from Port Union to Pickering for a haircut? From Mississauga to Oakville for an indoor meal? 

Nothing, save for the recommendations of public health officials who say that people in higher transmission areas should avoid traveling to lower transmission areas, except for essential reasons.

You can't be fined for shopping at Vaughan Mills if you live in Brampton, for instance, though such a thing would be frowned upon — especially among residents of lesser-restricted zone.

Mayors and Chairs from the 11 largest municipal governments across the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area issued a news release on Monday asking residents not to "region-hop" for any non-essential regions right now.

They also urged all retailers that remain open to immediately announce they will NOT hold large in person sales on Friday.

"Such sales would inevitably produce crowd scenes which would only serve to undermine the fight against COVID-19 and negate the sacrifices being made by so many, including other businesses," reads the release.

"The Mayors and Chairs urge people to shop online and to support local retailers through internet shopping and the curbside pickup option."

And yet, some retailers in red zones appeared to be actively courting shoppers from lockdown regions ahead of Boxing Day.

While the idea of people in Toronto hitting up York and Durham regions for services they can't get at home is obvious, retail workers as far west as Hamilton, Burlington and Niagara are starting to notice a marked uptick in lockdown spillover shoppers.

"I work in retail in Burlington and we've been packed with customers from Toronto," wrote one Twitter user on Tuesday.

"They even complain about how they had to drive all the way here to shop! I just want to scream at them to stay home!"

"Just been in Staples to buy gifts for the kids, to hear the couple in front of me complain about having to drive from their home in Toronto to go Christmas shopping because everything's locked down there," wrote a Hamilton resident similarly on Monday.

"What's the f*cking point?"

Hamilton's Medical Officer of Health, Dr. Elizabeth Richardson, expressed her concern over the number of people arriving in her city from Toronto this past week.

"The moving between jurisdictions is concerning," said Richardson to the Hamilton Spectactor.

"We know there have been impacts from people going from one area to another, in terms of cases … they are not just theoretical."

While red zone regions do have restrictions in place for retail stores, including mandatory patron screening and enforced physical distancing rules, the worry is that malls like Hamilton's CF Lime Ridge could become hot spots for the spread of COVID-19.

The spillover between Toronto and Peel into other regions is already happening. Only time will tell if this has any impact on daily case counts in the province.

Lead photo by

Dave Lauretti

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