TORONTO - Local area businesses anxiously await news from the Premier when they will once again be able to welcome patrons back into their establishments. The clock is counting down on the temporary 28-day modifi ed phase two restrictions imposed back on October 10th.
The temporary measures prohibit restaurants, bars, and gyms located in “hotspot” areas of Toronto, Peel Region and Ottawa, from offering indoor service to patrons. Public health officials made these recommendations based on the increasing Covid-19 cases within those areas. York Region was added to the list one week later.
Businesses affected by these restrictions are calling on Government to allow them to resume operations under appropriate Covid-19 safety protocols. The Premier makes the fi nal call, based on the recommendations of Public Health experts.
Many of the businesses are still trying to recover from the economic hardship induced by the “lockdown” during the fi rst wave of the pandemic. Should the restrictions carry on longer than 28 days, it may affect their ability to remain in business.
Restaurants, for instance, play an important role in the food service industry. Pre-pandemic, the restaurant and foodservices sector contributed over $90 billion to the Canadian economy. The sector employs over one million Canadians. The industry indirectly employs an additional 250,000 Canadians as suppliers, distributors and consultants.
According to Restaurants Canada, a national not-for-profit association advancing the foodservice industry through programs, research and resources, etc., the impacts of Covid-19 have resulted in 188.000 lost jobs. As more establishments close, that number could increase by an estimated 100,000 jobs. This could translate to a loss of as much as $44.8 billion in sales for the year - roughly 50% of the annual total.
Restaurant and business owners in Ontario regions ordered to scale back into a modified phase two feel unfairly targeted. So far, Toronto has experienced about 33,000 job losses in the restaurant industry, close to 15,000 in the Region of Peel, another 12,000 in Ottawa and approximately 8,800 in York Region.
Advocates for the industry wonder whether the rationale for the imposed restrictions is sound. For example, based on modelling data released by the Province’s Science Table Covid-19 Advisory for Ontario, restaurants/bars/clubs in Peel Region account for only 3% of all new cases during a 12-week period ending October 24th.
In Ottawa, only 2% were traced back to those establishments while the numbers in York Region and Toronto were 10% and 14% respectively. These rates are lower compared to other sources of outbreaks, such as industrial settings (22%) in the case of Peel Region. Data also suggest that daily new cases throughout November are projected to be higher than those reported throughout the first wave.
Meanwhile, as temperatures continue to drop, so too will the desire of patrons to eat outdoors on a patio during the winter months. The 28-day period for the areas of Toronto, Ottawa and the Region of Peel are set to expire by the end of this week (November 7th).
The areas' businesses impacted have yet to hear from the Premier what their future holds.