By ALAN SHACKLETON
As the fight against the spread of COVID-19 (the coronavirus) ramps up around the world, the effects are being felt across the country including East Toronto neighbourhoods.
Local grocery stores have been extremely busy since Thursday, March 12, when increasing measures to fight the spread of the virus such as the closing of all of Ontario’s publicly funded schools for the next three weeks were announced.
On the afternoon of Sunday, March 15, stores including Foodland and Carload on The Beach along Queen Street East in the Beach were busy but not jammed.
Staff at both stores were busy keeping the shelves stocked, and shoppers appeared to be calm and patient for the most part.
A woman who had just finished shopping at Foodland said it was important not to panic as fears of the impact and toll the COVID-19 virus will take grows.
“I’m personally feeling good. I think the panic shopping is an overreaction by a lot of people,” she said.
However, those who had been in the stores on Friday and Saturday said they had been extremely busy, which was a trend seen at many local stores as shoppers were stocking up on items such as canned goods and toilet paper.
Last Friday morning, No Frills owner John Rocca was busily re-stocked bananas in the produce section and he sighed when asked by a reporter about how busy the store had been the day before as shoppers were in a near-panic of buying.
“It was super busy,” he said about the evening of March 12, and the line-up of customers into his Coxwell Avenue and Gerrard Street East store reached the parking lot.
“We are doing our best to serve our customers,” Rocca said. “We have great staff and they have been troopers. I’m so proud of them and the service they have given under these circumstances.”
Rocca did not want to comment on the politics of the COVID-19 response by governments or what he thought of the “panic” among customers. “We’re dealing with it,” he said as continued to unload produce.
On Friday morning his store was busy, with the parking lot almost full and a steady stream of customers heading in and out, but it was not packed.
As Friday went on, more events were cancelled and further measures announced to fight the spread of the virus.
The week of March Break sees the closure of Toronto’s public libraries, city daycares, community and recreations centres, camps, museums and the Toronto Zoo to name but a few. People are being advised to practice strict hygiene habits and to “socially distance” themselves from others.
In a release sent on Friday, Beaches-East York Councillor Brad Bradford acknowledged that the city and residents are being “inundated” with information about COVID-19, but asked residents to look out for each other in these extraordinary times.
“As our communities escalate their response to COVID-19 we are reminded of our incredible ability to take personally inconvenient or distressing actions for the greater benefit of our community. We’re all in this together. Our calm but diligent response will help serve our loved ones and strangers alike. Please look out for each other. We will get through this and the best way is together,” said Bradford’s release.
Beaches-East York MPP Rima Berns-McGowan also called on residents to be thoughtful to the needs of others even though this is a frightening situation for many.
“I am very aware that many of us are worried about how we are going to get through the tough time ahead of us. It will be a test of all of us in Beaches-East York as a community, but I am certain that we will rise to the challenge,” she said in a release.
“Please do remember that we are all in this together. Let’s all try to support each other and our local businesses, and above all, let us all please be kind.”
Bradford also called on local landlords to be understanding when it comes challenges that may be faced by their residential and business tenants over the coming weeks.
“I would like to encourage all landlords and property owners to understand the gravity of this situation and the impacts on your tenants,” he said in his release.
“Please use your discretion and humanity when determining when to collect rent. Small businesses will be facing an incredibly challenging few months, and we need to band together as a community to support them. We’re all in this together, and we will only get through it if we help one another.”
Residents who are concerned about their health can contact Toronto Public Health hotline at 416-338-7600 from 8:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Monday to Friday, and from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays.
More information can also be found at www.toronto.ca/coronavirus