'No doubt' lockdown is right decision: Mayor Tory backs Premier Ford's lockdown of Toronto

Toronto Mayor John Tory and the city's top doctor say they're fully supportive of the province’s decision to move Toronto and Peel Region to a state of lockdown next week.

“We asked the province for further actions, because the numbers continue to go in the wrong direction, despite the City of Toronto having the strictest existing restrictions in the province,” Tory said at a news conference late Friday afternoon.

He added that “we can't have a healthy economy and build back better if people are sick and continue to get sick in greater and greater numbers.”

Tory’s comments came just 30 minutes after a news conference in which Premier Doug Ford announced a fresh lockdown for Toronto and Peel Region to contain runaway spread of the COVID-19 virus.

Toronto and Peel Region will be in a state of lockdown as of Monday as case numbers continue to surge and hospitalizations rise to a point where they threaten to delay surgeries and overwhelm the system.

Numbers released by Toronto Public Health Friday afternoon show 174 people are currently hospitalized with COVID-19 in the city, while there are around 4,400 active cases in Toronto.

Speaking alongside Tory, Toronto’s Medical Officer of Health Dr. Eileen de Villa said “there is no doubt” that the province’s decision is the right decision.

She said Toronto has reported 16,630 cases since Oct. 1. That means that 45 per cent of all of Toronto’s cases since the start of the pandemic have occurred since the beginning of October.

“We must act firmly to disrupt COVID-19 and its ability to threaten and harm us. We know we can turn these numbers around,” de Villa said. “We also know what happens when the virus spreads out of control. We're seeing it now in the United States and in Europe. This is not what I want to see for Toronto.”

While de Villa has at times been at odds with the province over whether measures for the city were strong enough, both she and Tory shrugged off questions about timing and said they are pleased the province is taking action now.

“The bottom line here is that the premier and the Government of Ontario, in partnership with us and people from Peel and elsewhere had the courage to do today, what is the right thing,” Tory said. “And now we can move forward and it's going to cause a lot of hardship for many people, but I think in the end is going to be better because we're going to be in a better place at the end of this period in terms of dealing with this virus and actually protecting the economy and protecting healthcare and protecting people's lives.

“But it's almost impossible to know exactly what the right time is or exactly how much to do on a given day. You do your best and that's what everybody's been doing, including us and including the premier.”

In a letter sent to the province earlier this week, De Villa laid out the types of actions she thinks are necessary to stop the spread of the virus, though she has remained tight-lipped about the contents of the letter. 

Speaking with reporters Friday, she would not say specifically which measures on her list the province agreed to.

“We asked for a number of measures that are really focused on reducing those opportunities for people to gather and I think that you can see that the province has taken that request seriously,” de Villa said.

However she did say that there are “still some areas we’re working on together” such as support for people who need to take time off from work because they’re sick or feeling unwell.

Pointing out that many people don’t have savings to fall back on or jobs where they get paid if they aren’t at work, de Villa said more needs to be done to support people whose livelihoods may be impacted COVID-19.

“That is why I am adding my voice to those urging senior levels of government to find ways to support people practically through the next few weeks – in part because it will allow more people to stay safely at home and that will help reduce and prevent the spread of infection, which is why we’re doing this to begin with,” de Villa said. 

While some businesses have said lockdown measures are too harmful for the economy, Tory said they are necessary to make sure that ultimately, the economy can continue to function.

“We have to stop this virus now to save lives, protect our most vulnerable and ultimately, to protect our economy,” Tory said.

Tory reiterated a simple message: “Please stay home as much as possible.”

He urged people to go shopping just once a week for essentials and to do other outdoor activities alone as much as possible for the time being.

De Villa also cautioned that even though the risk of transmission outdoors is lower “that doesn’t mean it’s zero.”

“I think that it's important that people realize that even though the risk is lower in outdoor settings, it doesn't mean that it's zero, particularly in those events where people get together in a very relaxed environment with friends and family,” she said.

Tory said the city is also continuing its efforts to bring more testing to more people wherever necessary. The city has recently focused its efforts in particular on the northwest corner of the city where positivity rates have been much higher.