By Moira Warburton
TORONTO (Reuters) – Toronto, Canada’s most-populous city and financial capital, will allow businesses to reopen starting on Wednesday, joining other regions in the province of Ontario in ending a three-month pandemic lockdown, Ontario Premier Doug Ford said on Monday.
Malls and restaurants in Toronto, along with Peel Region, which includes some of the city’s densely populated suburbs, will be able to open their patios, according to the government’s plan.
Ontario, Canada’s largest province by population, started gradually reopening its economy this month, but Toronto was left off the initial list.
Ford said the government would continue to monitor health trends and consult daily with the province’s medical experts, and asked people to stay vigilant.
“It can turn and bite us in the backside in about a heartbeat,” Ford said.
Downtown Toronto is home to some of Canada’s biggest banks and insurers, and many of them have agreed to allow their staff to work from home until at least September, Toronto Mayor John Tory said last month.
Canadian provinces imposed lockdowns in March to contain the spread of the coronavirus, which has killed 8,430 people in Canada and infected 101,337, according to the latest government data. Toronto has recorded more than 1,000 deaths.
Windsor-Essex, in southwestern Ontario near the Michigan border, is the only health region still in Phase 1 of the three-phase reopening, where an outbreak is hitting migrant workers on farms.
Ford said the province began sending mobile testing units to the largest farms and food-processing plants on Saturday, but blamed Windsor-Essex’s continued closure on farmers who will not get their workers tested.
“Farmers just aren’t cooperating,” Ford said, adding the province cannot force anyone to get tested. “We’ll give it another shot … but then we’re going to have to pull out other tools.”
Separately, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau pushed back on Monday against pressure from airlines to reopen the nation’s borders.
Reporting by Moira Warburton; Editing by Kevin Liffey and Peter Cooney