Canadian Businesses Brace for More Shutdowns With Virus Surging

Canada’s largest province appears poised to order the shutdown of more businesses with federal officials warning daily coronavirus cases could quadruple heading into the holiday season.

Ontario, home to 14.7 million of Canada’s 38 million people, will announce “tough” new restrictions Friday afternoon, Premier Doug Ford said Thursday. His cabinet is considering closing down gyms and personal-care services and limiting capacity in shopping malls and stores for 28 days in the worst-hit regions, according to theToronto Star.

Cases of Covid-19 are on pace to exceed 20,000 a day at the current rate of spread, according to data released Friday by the Public Health Agency of Canada in Ottawa. Canada has averaged just under 5,000 cases daily over the past seven days.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is scheduled to hold a daily briefing outside his residence at Rideau Cottage instead of a Parliament Hill press room, signaling a return to the strategy seen throughout the first-wave lockdown that began in March.

“The reality is we’re still facing many more months of having to do the right things, of having to reduce our contacts, of having to wear masks of having to be very very careful and vigilant,” the prime minister told reporters Thursday.

Dr. Theresa Tam, the country’s top medical officer, warned cases could hit 60,000 a day across the country if Canadians increase their social interactions.

Crippling Blow

Movie theaters and indoor dining at restaurants are already closed or restricted in parts of Ontario including Toronto, the nation’s financial capital. New lockdown measures could have a crippling effect on retailers — Black Friday, when retail sales are usually at a higher level than the rest of the year, is next week, and the Christmas and New Year’s holidays are coming soon.

Covid hospitalizations have been rapidly spreading since the end of the summer. In Ontario, the seven-day average of new cases has consistently remained above 1,000 since Nov. 6, according to data from Ford’s government. Since mid-August, Canada’s effective reproduction number has stayed above one, meaning that each new case is infecting more than one person.

In the west, British Columbia made face masks mandatory indoors for the first time during the pandemic after new infections set a fresh daily record of 762 earlier in this week.

The province, which had successfully clamped down on one of North America’s earliest outbreaks at the beginning of the year, had tightened restrictions in the Vancouver area this month. But that failed to check the virus’ spread and infections are climbing across the province.

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henryannounced Thursday those measures would be extended province-wide. They include a suspension of all gatherings except weddings, funerals and baptisms (which can only proceed with 10 people and a Covid-19 safety plan), as well as indoor group fitness activities like yoga and spin classes.

Travel in and out of one’s community is “strongly discouraged,” while Premier John Horgan has called on the Trudeau government to implement a nationwide approach to restricting all non-essential trips. Such measures are set to hit B.C.’s roughly C$2 billion ($1.5 billion) ski industry just as its famed resorts like Vail Resort Inc.’s Whistler Blackcomb are about to open.

“The coming weeks will be the most difficult in our pandemic,” Henry said. “Our focus is to slow the spread over the next one to two incubation periods.”

She added: “We must remember that we flattened our curve before and we can again.”

— With assistance by Natalie Obiko Pearson

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