Ontario began its 28 day lockdown on Boxing Day, shuttering most retail businesses, bars, and restaurants until January 24th, 2021. Unless a retail store sells groceries, or is a pharmacy, only curbside pickup, delivery, or online orders are allowed.
Rising cases of COVID-19 in the Greater Toronto Area and many other parts of Ontario, including South Dundas, warrant some action by the provincial government. That said, the previously announced “surgical approach” for applying lockdowns has been replaced with a sledgehammer. That hammer will hit Ontario’s small businesses hard.
There are many things that are unfair about the lockdown measures. Big box retailers with a grocery section like Walmart can continue to sell non-essential goods, while small business competitors cannot. Unlike Manitoba, which required non-essential items to be blocked off during that province’s lockdown, there are no restrictions to what big box retailers can sell in Ontario. That is unfair to the many thousands of businesses already dealing with nine months of losses due to the pandemic.
The same can be said for switching schools to online delivery for one-to-three weeks. Throughout the fall, Education Minister Stephen Lecce said that infection rates in schools were very low and keeping students in class was the highest priority. With the exception of a few schools in Toronto, COVID-19 spread has been nominal in schools. Most reported cases in the public education system have been from someone symptomatic going to school, rather than person-to-person spread in a school.
Shutting down education and non-essential retail does not address the majority of issues with community spread.
Essential workplaces like distribution centres, logistics, and manufacturing in the GTA are key places for spreading the virus. So are private family gatherings, parties, and other events where selfish people attempt to skirt the rules because it is inconvenient for them. With few exceptions, all levels of government, including police and health units, have opted for education rather than levying fines to stop irresponsible behaviour.
Lockdown measures are set to expire at the end of January 23rd, unless extended by the provincial government. Hopefully during this 28 day time-out period, the government can craft a better plan for lockdowns so in the event one is needed again, officials will not have to throw a sledgehammer at the problem.