Mayor John Tory is urging Toronto residents not to rush to the stores to buy unnecessary items this weekend, amid reports of large crowd scenes in malls and other retail stores.
“Everything I’ve learned … says crowd scenes are a place where the virus spreads. Even if everyone wears masks in shopping malls, it’s still a threat,” he said.
“Please stay at home. People don’t have to go shopping. Some people do it for basic needs, but not all of them have to go for it today … I don’t think most of the purchases are necessary.”
All non-essential retail stores will be forced to close at 12:01 p.m. on Monday, as Toronto and the Peel District have entered into a 28-day lockout similar to what was implemented in the spring.
Curbside pickup and delivery will still be allowed in all retail stores.
Gyms will also be forced to close once again, and restaurants will be allowed to remain open only for takeout and delivery.
Lineups set up outside of the big-box stores, including many Walmart locations in Toronto on Saturday, noticed customers were stocking toilet paper and other household items.
In anticipation of higher customer volumes, some malls in the GTA have extended their working hours this weekend.
Tory said the shopping spree this weekend could lead to further spread of the virus, but the state is in a difficult position.
“You’re kind of damned if you do it, damn it if you don’t, to be honest. If you had everything turned off Friday noon or when the prime minister made the announcement, people would say you didn’t warn us,” Tory said.
“This is a fair comment. There would be no warning. We gave some time to let people prepare for this, the Prime Minister did… There is no perfect answer. Everyone did what they think was the best conditions.”
The mayor said the response to the lockdown was “mixed”.
“I think people are generally very supportive of what needs to be done and they understand that we are enforcing these restrictions and recommending them to the state based on expert advice.” Said.
“I think if it’s going to make things better for a few months, and if it’s going to avoid worse isolation for a much longer time, and if we can keep schools open now and protect our elders, that’s something that might be necessary.”
He acknowledged that businesses were “not happy” and understandably.
“They’ve gone through a horrible, awful period and they will have a horrible time another 28 days of a year when things can get a lot more active due to Black Friday due to Christmas,” he said. .
“But in the end, you have to have healthy employees to have a healthy economy.”