Over 100 small businesses call on area politicians to urge province not to move Simcoe Muskoka into grey-lockdown

Group warns of unnecessary closure of dozens of local businesses

Opposition to moving Simcoe Muskoka into grey-lockdown on Monday is growing.

As of mid-Sunday morning, there were more than 12,000 names on a petition urging the province to reverse the call to lockdown Simcoe Muskoka. https://www.change.org/p/andrea-khanjin-keep-local-businesses-open-with-restrictions-in-simcoe-muskoka?utm_source=share_petition&utm_medium=custom_url&recruited_by_id=54b57880-7883-11eb-98e4-9545a74e2769

Petition sign

In a statement issued late Saturday on behalf of more than 100 small businesses in the area, they asked Barrie Mayor Jeff Lehman and regional MPPs to urge the province not to move Simcoe Muskoka into grey-lockdown.

‚ÄúConditions on the ground do not warrant the move, said Emil Kamel, owner of North Swing Golf Lounge in Barrie, speaking on behalf of the group. 

In an interview with Barrie 360 on Sunday, Kamel said they want the province and health unit to target the source of COVID-19 transmission.

“Our small businesses have shown that we can open safely. Our small businesses have proven that we are not the source of transmission in our community, and we do not believe we should be the ones shouldering further restrictions,” he added.

Kamel noted that in just the last couple of days there have been outbreaks at a Walmart in Barrie, and he said they have also happened in controlled group homes.

“And, we’re seeing it in Costco, but not in our local businesses.”

The statement on Saturday warned that moving the region into grey will result in the unnecessary closure of dozens of local businesses and will be devastating to the local economy.

Under grey-lockdown, stores can open with capacity limits. Bars and restaurants cannot offer dine-in. Gyms, salons, barbershops and yoga studios must close. Schools and skill hills can remain open.

Kamel told Barrie 360 there are businesses that cannot survive another two-week lockdown. He accused provincial health officials and the local health unit of making decisions without the proper justification.

On Tuesday, Simcoe Muskoka medical officer of health Dr. Charles Gardner said there had been a 30 per cent increase in COVID-19 cases in the region prior to the week before.

Kamel said those numbers are handpicked to justify a decision made on Feb. 26 using numbers from Feb. 14 to 20.

In announcing the decision to move Simcoe Muskoka from red to grey-zone, Dr. David Williams, Ontario’s Chief Medical Officer of Health, pointed to a rise in COVID-19 cases but also the spread of variants of concern (VON), and said Simcoe Muskoka had the highest number of variants in the province as of this past Tuesday.

In its reporting on Friday, the Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit said there have been 184 total cases of B.1.1.7., the variant first detected in the U.K., which was up two cases from the previous day. There were 290 cases screened for a positive VOC, though not identified, and that was up 16 from Thursday’s tally.

Kamel said the U.K. argument is a fallacy.

“But a huge majority of these are due to the tragic outbreak that we saw in Roberta Place, which has now been declared over,” said Kamel. “And these numbers have padded that stat.”

He said the region has had the highest number with this variant for the last three weeks and it has not spread like wildfire.

Kamel said small businesses are pushing local mayors to speak up against the grey-lockdown because the Ford government has said it makes these decisions in consultation with local leaders and not just health officials.

“Mayors and our local MPPs are the elected officials who answer to us and they are the ones who need to stand up and make a stand and not allow us to switch to grey,” he said.

Kamel said if the province and health unit move the region to grey, it would be destroying thousands of lives unnecessarily.

Prior to the statement from the business owners, Barrie’s mayor posted to Facebook on Saturday that he has heard the anger about new grey zone restrictions to businesses who just got to reopen two weeks ago.

“Totally understand, I had 8 years of running a small business myself, making payroll and overhead every month,” Jeff Lehman said on Facebook.

“From the beginning of COVID I’ve stood by public health science and will continue to. If there’s a public health rationale for these restrictions, OK, but if not, I’ll push the Province for changes.”