Mayor John Tory is urging Toronto residents not to rush to stores to buy non-essential items this weekend amid reports of large crowd scenes at malls and other retail shops.
“Everything that I have learned.. says that crowd scenes are a place where the virus spreads. Even if everyone is wearing a mask at the malls, it is still a threat,” he said.
“Please stay home. People don’t have to go shopping. Some people do for essentials but they don’t all have to go for that today… I think a lot of the shopping being done is not essential.”
All non-essential retail stores will be forced to close at 12:01 a.m. on Monday as Toronto and Peel Region head into a 28-day lockdown, similar to the one implemented in the spring.
Gyms will also be forced to close once again and restaurants will only be permitted to stay open for takeout and delivery.
Lineups formed outside big box stores,including multiple Walmart locations in Toronto, on Saturday with customers spotted stocking up on toilet paper and other household items.
In anticipation of higher volumes of shoppers, some malls in the GTA have extended their operating hours this weekend.
Tory said while this weekend’s shopping frenzy could lead to further spread of the virus, the province was in a difficult position.
“You are sort of damned if you do, damned if you don’t, to be frank. If you have just closed everything down Friday at noon, or whenever the premier made the announcement, then people would have said you gave us no warning,” Tory said.
“That’s a fair comment. There would have been no warning. We gave some time, the premier did, to let people get ready for this… There is no perfect answer. Everybody did what they thought was the best in all of the circumstances.”
The mayor said the response to the lockdown has been “mixed.”
“I think that people generally are very supportive of what needs to be done and they understand that we are putting in place these restrictions and recommending them to the province based on expert advice,” he said.
“I think they also do agree with the notion that if it is going to make things better down the road a few months, and avoid a much worse lockdown for a much longer period of time, and if we can keep the schools open now and protect our elderly, this is a thing that may be necessary.”
He acknowledged that businesses “are not happy,” and understandably so.
“They have been through a terrible, terrible time and they are going to go through another 28 days of a terrible time at a time of the year when things might have been much more buoyant because of Christmas, because of Black Friday,” he said.
“But in the end, you have to have healthy workers to have a healthy economy.”