Blockade of Toronto-One of the Longest in the World?

Toronto’s restaurants have been closed for more than 360 days since the pandemic began, making it one of the longest indoor dining bans in the world. why?

This week, millions of British people enjoyed eating in a dining room that wasn’t theirs. They asked for water replenishment, considered ordering dessert, and gave the waiter a tip.

On the other side of the pond, in Canada, Toronto citizens turned green with envy.

“Now I just sit in a restaurant and do anything. It doesn’t matter what I eat or drink. The last time it happened was in early October, so it’s no longer noisy,” says Ariel Teplitsky. , A culture writer in the city.

“Give me a plastic sheet of fast food court and a mediocre burger. You may cry.”

Canada’s largest city with a population of 3 million was issued a state emergency stay-at-home order on April 8, this year. This is because Canada has overtaken the United States in new cases per million.

The order has been extended until at least June 2nd. Before that, the city was somehow blocked from October 10, when the second (and third) waves began to hit.

Anyway, I couldn’t eat at a restaurant in Toronto for more than 360 days. Compare with Paris (260 days or more), London (259 days), Hong Kong (2 days).

The blockade in Toronto was prolonged as Covid’s cases continued to rise this winter.

Unlike Canada, which borders the south, Canada lacks a strong vaccine supply to mitigate the effects of its variants, which has led to a vicious third wave.

Many businesses have been closed, but they continue to occur in schools and critical workplaces.

Graph showing how the ban on indoor dining in Toronto compares to other major cities

Graph showing how the ban on indoor dining in Toronto compares to other major cities

The restaurant scene in other cities has followed a different fate. In Seoul, curfew and restrictions on the number of people inside have significantly reduced pandemics, but indoor meals remain open throughout the pandemic.

Singapore stopped eating for several weeks last spring. Restaurants have been open for most of the pandemic, but had to close again last week as city-states saw a surge in new infections and new restrictions were enforced.

Before these rules were imposed, the BBC spoke to Eleanor Asim, who moved from Singapore to Toronto a few years ago and now owns the Lion City Restaurant and McCann Noodle Bar, and her husband Gregory Woon.

It was hard to see her friends and family living normally.

“It’s going to be tearful to see how much freedom they have,” she says.

Sim and her husband cite Singapore’s success through strict contact tracing and travel restrictions in the country, but some have accused it of violating public privacy in the name of public health.

“We are here. You can’t choose. There are a lot of good things here that Singapore doesn’t have,” says Woon.

It is the livelihood of their staff that worries him and his wife.

Lion City, a suburb of Mississauga, remains open, but the McCann Noodle Bar in downtown Toronto had to be closed temporarily.

“As a business owner, you not only think about your business and how it affects you, but also about the family behind your staff,” says Sim.

“For me, the biggest pressure is not to disappoint the people who work with us.”

Trevor Liu, co-owner of Makkan, believes that at least a quarter of restaurants could close by the end of the pandemic.

“Many of us don’t even know if we want to be in this industry anymore. This is the industry we’ve loved for the rest of our lives,” he says.

He says yo-yo blockade rules and inadequate financial support from the government made things difficult.

“Last year we went back and forth many times,” he said.

Comparing blockages around the world is not always apple to apple. Toronto has long banned eating indoors, cutting hair, going to the gym, etc., but has never imposed a curfew like London and Paris, and travel in the area is relatively travelable. Not restricted.

Toronto restaurants closed most of last year

Toronto restaurants closed most of last year

Regarding a simple business closure, Toronto probably had the longest blockade in North America, and perhaps the world, says Dan Kelly, chairman of the Canadian Independent Business Federation.

Indoor dining, which is impossible to do without breathing into strangers, is often one of the first to go and the last to resume.

Kelly says many small business owners are dissatisfied, especially as the third wave hit the city so hard. In some areas, there are over 1,000 new cases per 100,000 population.

“Is that really leading to the lower Covid spreads we all want?” He asked.

“I feel that this blockade policy was meaningless.”

Jen Ag, who owns several restaurants in the city, hasn’t chopped up the words-she says she was completely confused last year (but uses stronger words).

She absolutely supports the blockade to protect public health, but the method implemented in Toronto, combined with the country’s slow vaccine deployment, contributed to the third wave of the city, she said. thinking.

Thousands of small independent companies have been closed, but many large workplaces, including factories and warehouses, remain open and are responsible for the outbreak.

Ontario’s Premier Doug Ford has been criticized by many for ignoring professional calls for paid sick leave. The state finally agreed to mandate three days of paid emergency leave in April this year.

Ms. Ag believes that the city would not have been hit so hard this spring if the state had previously launched a tighter blockade and paid sick people to miss their jobs.

“We don’t have to be here. This kind of half-measured blockade doesn’t really protect people, so it’s not very effective,” she says.

When the state decided to reopen the patio in March, Ms. Ag refused to do so, despite the increased number of incidents. “The numbers were so crazy that it felt like a ridiculous decision,” she says.

Two weeks later, just 24 hours ago, the state announced a stay-at-home order, offending many other restaurant owners who spent money to resume dining outdoors.

Toronto patio sign laments blockade

Many restaurant owners were angry that they had to close the patio after opening for only two weeks.

Michael Hunter, co-owner of Antler Kitchen & Bar, I even sent a tap beer bill to Premier Ford I ordered his restaurant but couldn’t serve it. The patio is currently not scheduled to reopen until mid-June.

Many companies would be shut down without government support, Ag said. However, it was often unclear when and what would be supported.

During the summer, when indoor dining was allowed, she still sought to keep most of her business on the patio and takeaway just for the health and safety of staff and customers.

However, she said she felt obliged to reopen French diner Ruswan without an outdoor terrace because the federal pandemic’s employment benefits had not yet been renewed, leaving her staff with no source of income. I was worried.

“It was a really, really difficult decision,” she says.

“Our staff was anxious to get back to work … who says no to this that everyone else is doing?”

These benefits were finally updated in the fall. After several months of campaigning by Agg and others, a federal rent bailout for businesses took place in November. The state did not subsidize small businesses until January this year, almost a year after the pandemic began.

Covid cases are finally beginning to decline as the city accelerates vaccine deployment. About half of the city’s total population has been vaccinated at least once, and since last week everyone over the age of 18 is eligible to book a vaccine.

Canada takes a second dose every four months. This means that most people are unlikely to take a second dose before the fall.

At that time, Ms. Ag hopes that indoor meals will resume and government assistance will cease.

“If that happens, people are probably three to six months away from drowning under taxes, or maybe rent,” she says.

While the takeaway highlights Le Swan and others, Ag says she can’t wait to eat in the restaurant herself.

“It’s not food that we miss, but food,” she says.

“You don’t see people eating around you in a restaurant, and that’s what I really miss, that energy of being together.”