Wayne Gates is angry the the local public health department was not consulted before Premier Doug Ford announced stage two of the reopening of Ontario’s economy, which does not include Niagara.
“Doug Ford is making political decisions without consulting experts and without understanding the situation on the ground here in Niagara. This is completely unacceptable,” says Gates.
Ford said Monday the decision of which regions would open was made in consultation with local health officials.
Dr. Mustafa Hirji, acting medical officer of health for Niagara, said in a radio interview Monday afternoon that public health was not consulted, and that he was disappointed to hear Niagara was not included in the next stage of recovery, which allows restaurant patios, wineries and other businesses to move toward reopening, beginning Friday.
Hirji said it could be due to the surge in cases from the Pioneer Flower Farm outbreak, and the proximity of Niagara to the border.
A statement from the region’s public health department Tuesday said “Niagara Region Public Health was not consulted on the decisions by the province announced yesterday around moving to stage two. However, the province has had discussions with us around how that decision was made, and there are ongoing conversations on the potential for Niagara to move to stage two in the near future.”
Lord Mayor Betty Disero says the Premier has said all along his decisions are based on advice from the province’s medical officers, with health as his priority.
“We follow the rules of the Province,” she says, “and we’ll do what we’re asked to do.”
“We’re a quick drive” from the GTA, which is also not included in phase two, “and we could have seen a large influx of people.”
Having more businesses open is good for the economy, but the provincial medical officers are looking at the impact on health, says Disero.
In the meantime, there is some indication the next stage for the rest of Ontario could be as early as June 19, and the Town is working out a system to allow restaurant patios to open in public spaces, allowing room for physical distancing. The discussion Monday was that in order for that to happen quickly, special occasion permits, already covered by a Town bylaw, can be issued. That would also cover the ability to serve alcohol in those spaces..
Beginning Friday, the Province is increasing the limit on social gatherings from five to 10 people, for all regions, and is allowing places of worship to open with attendance limited to no more than 30 per cent of the building capacity. Some of the openings in other parts of the province include barber shops, hair salons, shopping malls. tour guide services, wineries, breweries, outdoor splash pads, wading pools, and swimming pools, all with measures and guidelines to open safely.