Many shoppers are flocking to stores to stock up this weekend ahead of Toronto and Peel Region entering a lockdown to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus.
Lineups have been forming outside big box stores since Friday night, including one outside a Walmart at Eglinton and Pharmacy avenues in Scarborough.
On Saturday morning, another Walmart at Jane St. and St. Clair Avenue had shoppers anxiously waiting in line to grab their necessities before the lockdown.
People are rushing to stores this weekend before the two COVID-19 hotspots enter a lockdown at 12:01 a.m. on Monday for at least 28 days.
Many shoppers appear to be panic buying and stocking up on items like toilet paper, similar to what was seen during the lockdown in the first wave of the pandemic in the spring.
In anticipation of higher volumes of shoppers, some malls are extending their operating hours this weekend.
Square One Shopping Centre will be open from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m., while Yorkdale Mall and Scarborough Town Centre will be open from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday.
Yesterday, Premier Doug Ford announced Toronto and Peel would be moving from the red “restrict” zone into the fifth and final grey “lockdown” tier of the province’s COVID-19 response framework as cases continue to surge in those regions.
“The situation is extremely serious and further action is required to avoid the worst case scenario,” Ford said during the announcement yesterday from Queen’s Park. “We cannot put in-class learning at risk, we can’t risk widespread outbreaks in our long-term care homes, we cannot risk overwhelming our hospitals. To protect our most vulnerable and protect what matters most we have to get the community spread under control.”
Under the “lockdown” level, all gyms, recreation facilities and personal care services will be forced to close, while limiting all non-essential retail stores to curbside pickup only.
Essential retailers that are permitted to remain open include supermarkets, hardware stores, convenience stores, pharmacies and beer and liquor stores, but all will now face a 50 per cent capacity limit. Schools and daycares are also allowed to remain open.
It should be noted that big box stores, like Walmart, that provide groceries and other essential services will be able to remain open.
Bars and restaurants are allowed to continue takeout and delivery services but must close their patios.
On Saturday, the province recorded a record-high 1,588 new COVID-19 infections, 522 of those cases were in Peel and 450 were in Toronto.