It wasn’t long after Ontario hit the highest daily count of new active COVID-19 cases that Premier Doug Ford announced new restrictions for the province on Jan.4.
And as Sudbury enters its fourth lockdown now, restaurants are gearing up towards challenges ahead.
“Our initial reaction was a bit of a surprise and a bit of disappointment. Of course we want to keep everyone safe and we want to do our part. It was just a bit of a shock,” Matt Moutsatsos, general manager of The Kouzzina in New Sudbury told Sudbury.com in an interview.
Ford’s announcement gave businesses just a day and a half’s notice, something the restaurant operators we spoke to found particularly challenging.
“The day and a half deadline is probably the hardest part about this lockdown,” Moutsatsos said. “The hard part for businesses with a day and a half announcement is, for most of us, inventory management.”
Following the busy holidays, restaurants resupply their stock in preparation for the new year. But with indoor dining closed, the food supply will take longer to burn through.
The Kouzzina isn’t the only restaurant to feel the frustration. Hardrock 42 Gastropub on Elm Street posted a message to their customers on Facebook.
“So, looks like we have been shut down for indoor dining again! Unfortunately, the news comes late, after we have already placed a large food order on the expectation to reopen today after the holidays & remain open longer than 2 days.”
Ford’s decision to rollback the province’s Roadmap to Reopen plan to Stage 2 took effect as of Jan. 5. Restaurants and bars will be closed for in-door dining for the next 21 days. Indoor sport and recreational fitness facilities including gyms will also be closed for the next three weeks.
The restaurant industry isn’t the only one in Ontario impacted by the changes. People across Ontario who look to fitness for physical and mental health are speaking out on social media as well.
One TikTok user by the username of @cringedaddy said that the winter season is where mental health declines as it is for a lot of people. And for the Ontario government to close fitness facilities makes “absolutely no sense.”
John Hillier, trainer and co-owner of the Basement Fitness, agreed with @cringedaddy’s assessment. He told Sudbury.com the lockdown measures come at a critical time for gyms.
“This is a massive time we can push in the industry. We usually see an influx of members coming back and new members, and people getting excited,” Hillier said. “(The Roadmap to Reopen plan) has really set us back.”
Although the government expanded the Ontario Business Costs Rebate Program to provide businesses that must close with a rebate payment of up to 100 per cent of their property tax and energy costs, Hillier said the payment will not make up for the revenue and income loss.
“We’ve done everything the government has asked this entire time. We watch the numbers, we have the capacities, everybody is double vaccinated. We have our cleaning procedures,” Hillier said. “I am not envious of (Doug Ford’s) position, I’m not envious of his job whatsoever. I’m seeing this from an emotional standpoint where this is my life and my livelihood and my family and my staff… I think everyone just wants answers. What’s the end game here because it’s not clear anymore.”
And it isn’t just TikTok users and business owners who are feeling the psychological effects of the ongoing pandemic restrictions. Sudbury’s branch of the Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA) has been seeing a wave of people that grow more weary with every shift in societal change.
“We’re at another point in this pandemic where everyone is struggling,” Sue Tasse, CMHA clinical services manager, told Sudbury.com in a Zoom interview. “From the service care workers to health care to mental health and addictions services to families at home – these are very trying times, and the continual ask to shift and pivot and accept is getting more and more difficult.”
Health Sciences North reported 29 active COVID-19 patients in the hospital and a little over a 1,000 active cases as of Jan. 6. This week was the first time past the 1,000-case mark for Public Health Sudbury and Districts. The Ontario government hopes to slow down the spread of the Omicron variant and prevent hospitals from being overwhelmed with the new lockdown measures.