Toronto Mayor John Tory says that he expects that there will be restrictions on some business on a "continuing basis" even if the Ontario government decides not to extend the modified Stage 2 closures past Friday.
The initial 28-day period for the enhanced restrictions in Toronto, Peel and Ottawa will come to an end at 12:01 a.m. on Saturday and Premier Doug Ford has indicated that he has asked provincial health officials to come up with a plan on how to safely allow some businesses to reopen.
Tory, however, told CP24 on Monday that he does not expect things to return to fully return to the way they were at the beginning of October when the city was in Stage 3 of Ontario's reopening plan.
"I think the point is that there will be restrictions on a continuing basis of some kind or another. One of the scenarios that I guess would be on the table among the range you can pick from is to say 'Lets just open everything up and hope for the best' but I think we have seen that tried elsewhere and it doesn’t work so well," he said.
"I think that what you are going to find is that there will be some kind of plan brought forward that will represent depending on local circumstances and depending on what is going on on any given day a range of restrictions that could be imposed on different kinds of businesses and behaviour."
The Ford government moved Toronto, Peel and Ottawa into a modified version of Stage 2 back on Oct. 10, prohibiting bars and restaurants from serving customers indoors and ordering a range of other business, including gyms, casinos and movie theatres, to close indefinitely.
At the time the number of new cases of COVID-19 were doubling every 10 to 12 days.
Since then the rate of growth has slowed but modelling released last week still indicated that Ontario will see 800 to 1,200 new infections each day for most of November.
In defending his decision to ask for a plan to reduce restrictions, Ford has said that "we don’t know how long this virus will be with us" and has suggested that widespread business closures "can't go on indefinitely."
That said a number of epidemiologist and public health experts have said that the modified Stage 2 restrictions are just starting to produce results in hard-hit regions like Toronto.
"It is hard to claim victory and pat everybody on the back and say job well done when you are still getting 800 to 1,000 new cases a day but it is important note that there actually are signs that things are starting to work. I just think it is going to take a little bit longer if we actually want to see a decline in cases," infectious diseases expert Dr. Issac Bogoch told CP24 on Monday morning.
In his interview with CP24 on Monday, Tory said that if Toronto is allowed to move back to Stage 3 he could envision new stricter rules around the distance between tables at restaurants and the number of people allowed to sit together.
He said that there could also be a prohibition on group activities at gyms, something Toronto Public Health had already called on the province to do prior to the introduction of the modified Stage 2 restrictions.
"You can see it in other cities in the world, all of which pretty much have some kind of restrictions on these sort of things, whether it be hours of business, distances or who can sit where and that sort of thing," he said.
It should be noted that York Region was moved into the modified version of Stage 2 one week later than the other three public health units and will continue to face additional restrictions until at least Nov. 16.