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Richmond Hill councillor asks Ford government not to extend lockdown in York Region

Regional Coun. Carmine Perrelli proposes to remove other restrictions on businesses in red (control) zone
Jan. 12, 2021
Sheila Wang

Regional Coun. Carmine Perrelli is calling on Premier Doug Ford to reopen businesses in York Region after Jan. 14.

In a release on Jan. 7, the Richmond Hill representative requested Ford to not extend the grey (lockdown) zone period in York Region.

York Region was placed in lockdown on Dec. 14 for 28 days, which was later extended to Jan. 23.

The regional councillor said he would bring forward a proposal at the York Region committee of the whole meeting on Jan. 14 to officially make the request to return York Region to the red (control) zone as modified in his motion.

The request was made one day before Ford warned that the shutdown won’t end at the end of January and more extreme measures will be taken as COVID-19 cases in Ontario surged to unprecedented levels.

Perrelli said many businesses have already closed permanently and extending lockdown period “will only lead to many more businesses facing the same fate, through no fault of their own.”

Quoting the region’s medical officer of health, Dr. Karim Kurji, Perrelli said the region “is not seeing any outbreaks traced to” retail establishments, restaurants, gyms or places of worship.

Regional spokesperson Patrick Casey confirmed Kurji made the remarks at a regional meeting on Dec. 22. At that time, non-essential businesses had been ordered to close -- except for curbside pickup -- for a week.

The top doctor also noted essential businesses, such as manufacturing warehouses, distribution and food processing centres, have contributed to COVID-19 cases.

On the same day when Perrelli made the request, at least six grocery store employees tested positive for COVID-19, including at No Frills and Food Basics in the region.

In his motion, Perrelli also proposed that the province should immediately remove the limits on the number of patrons dining indoors and clear away the restrictions on when liquor sales and consumption are permitted in the red zone -- in York Region.

“Who gave him the mandate to do that? Is he representing the constituents?” asked Oak Ridges resident Steve Raskin, who found out about Perrelli’s request on CP24.

Perrelli said he had “a long list of York Region residents who agree with not extending the lockdown” in his response to an inquiry from The Liberal.

Joan Parsons of Newmarket, who supported Perrelli’s motion, told The Liberal “none of the guidelines make any sense!”

Parsons is also among more than 100 people who commented on Perrelli’s sponsored post about his proposal on Facebook.

She said the rising case numbers from “faulty test results” were a “scare tactic” to keep people locked in.

York Region reported record-high 476 daily new COVID-19 cases and eight additional deaths on Jan. 8, according to the public health authorities.

“We are in the middle of a surge in COVID cases, our hospitals are overextended and we need to continue following the direction laid out by Dr. Kurji and the provincial government,” Richmond Hill Mayor Dave Barrow commented on Perrelli’s request.

Barrow said there were really tough times for local businesses and encouraged everyone to shop local at curbside or online.

Raskin said he worried if York Region was going to be the exception to the provincial lockdown, it would attract a migration of outsiders to the region, which would further increase the transmission.

Holland Landing resident Rachel Knight wrote to The Liberal in “full support” of Perrelli’s proposal, stating small businesses that employed people in the community were being hurt.

“This extreme measure to put York Region in the grey zone is causing more damage than the virus itself,” Rachel Knight concluded.

As of Jan. 7, the online dashboard shows York beds at 103 per cent capacity -- or 60 patients for the region’s 58 ICU beds, previously reported.

In his response, Casey said York Region’s cases must come down before “we can appropriately advocate” to the Ontario government to transition to a different zone.