Mayor John Tory says he’ll be “surprised” if Premier Doug Ford ignores Toronto’s request to keep current COVID-19 restrictions in place until at least March 9.

Tory told reporters in a virtual news conference Friday morning that he has only heard “informed” speculation about what Ford will announce at 2 p.m. about any easing of restrictions in virus hotspots.

“I would be surprised,” if Ford ignores a call from Dr. de Villa, Toronto’s public health chief, and her Peel counterpart Dr. Lawrence Loh to delay reassessment of current lockdown and stay-at-home orders for two weeks, Tory said.

“We did hear the premier say yesterday — and he’s been consistent throughout on this — that he would listen very carefully to the advice of not only his own medical officer of health but the local medical officers of health. He’s been a good partner in that respect.”

On Wednesday, de Villa told Torontonians: “I’ve never been as concerned about the threat of COVID-19 to your health as I am now,” because of virus variants that spread more rapidly could drive a dramatic surge in infections.

“Right now the case counts … don’t look so bad. They don’t sound bad. But today’s variant count is the tip of an iceberg,” de Villa said at a briefing. “By the time the confirmed case counts are big enough to shock us it will be too late to do anything. We will be in a third wave as bad as anything we’ve been through thus far.”

Tory, speaking Friday at an online cultural funding announcement with Lisa MacLeod, Ontario’s heritage, spport, tourism and culture minister, said “caution is the watchword for Toronto.”

The last thing Canada’s most populous city and its ailing businesses need, the mayor said, is to reopen too quickly and suffer a virus surge that forces it back into lockdown in early spring when expanded restaurant patios could be set to open.

“That would be the worst thing of all,” Tory said.

Also Friday, Dr. Teresa Tam, Canada’s chief medical officer, released new computer modelling showing the national COVID-19 crisis improving but at grave risk from variants.

Ford early this week mused earlier this week that Toronto and Peel could be moved out of the stay-at-home restrictions — where all non-essential businesses are closed except for online sales and curbside pickup — and into lockdown, where those stores can open with 25 per cent customer capacity.

But Thursday he said his cabinet will follow Friday morning recommendations from Ontario chief medical officer David Williams, who on Thursday told reporters: “The opinion of the local medical officer of health is very important in the decision making and will continue to be.”

Toronto has announced that its nine immunization clinics will be ready to open April 1 — as long as there is vaccine to get into people’s arms.

“The staff will be ready, the clinics will be ready, Toronto will be ready as soon as the supply is available,” Tory said, adding only certain categories of Torontonians will go to the clinics, with others vaccinated by their doctors or at pharmacies.

MacLeod was announcing more than $7 million in provincial funding for 87 local and virtual events through the Reconnect Festival and Event program. Many, including a “Royal Agricultural Virtual Experience”, are Toronto-based.

Asked when her government will announce plans to redevelop Ontario Place, after a framework for finding private-sector partners sparked concerns over the site’s future, MacLeod signalled people shouldn’t have to wait much longer.

“We’re making progress,” while consulting Toronto officials, MacLeod told reporters. “I hope to be in a position this spring in order to make an announcement.”

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The Ford government is “very excited about Ontario Place’s 50th anniversary,” the minister added.

“Obviously we want to make sure that we’re acknowledging that important milestone as we continue to maintain operations on the existing site but also look toward redevelopment.”

With files from Rob Ferguson and Alex Ballingall
David Rider is the Star’s City Hall bureau chief and a reporter covering city hall and municipal politics. Follow him on Twitter: @dmrider

This content was originally published here.