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Mayor hopes for shorter lockdown

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Lock down now so that local businesses can open sooner, Brockville Mayor Jason Baker advises area residents.

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The mayor said Monday he had not heard of any incidents involving non-compliance with the provincewide lockdown, more than two days into the measure aimed at preventing the further spread of COVID-19.

It was a somewhat different story in Gananoque, where one business owner was fined for hosting a function that did not comply with rules in effect before the lockdown.

Baker said Premier Doug Ford spoke with Ontario’s police chiefs “asking for a little more bite to go with the bark” of enforcing COVID-19 prevention measures.

Police Chief Scott Fraser said Monday that, while there had been a few calls, no fines had yet been issued for violating lockdown rules.

“We’ve had a couple of minor issues but nothing glaring since the 26th,” said Fraser, referring to the Boxing Day start of the new lockdown.

“It hasn’t been anything outrageous.”

Fraser, who was on the call with the premier, said people may not have yet been fully aware of when the lockdown began.

Meanwhile, Gananoque police reported Monday that officers got “a report of a licensed premise having an after hours function with liquor” in the early-morning hours of Christmas Eve.

“Officers attended and spoke to the owner of the premise. The owner was advised of the COVID restrictions at the time and the function was shut down,” police added.

On Monday, town police officers went to the owner’s residence and served a Provincial Offences Notice for failing to comply with an order, police added. The penalty is a set fine of $750 and a victim surcharge of $125.

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In Brockville, Baker said “Christmas was always going to be a tough time” to get people to comply with stricter measures, which is likely why the premier waited until Boxing Day.

“The next big challenge will be large house parties on New Year’s Eve.”

But the mayor is urging area residents to comply with the stricter measures, in the hopes of shortening the lockdown period.

While the lockdown is in effect until Jan. 23, Ford has held out hope that it might be lifted sooner in “yellow” and “green” zones on the province’s severity scale. The tri-county area was a “yellow” zone before the lockdown took effect.

Baker said he believes such decisions will be based on local COVID case counts and hospital occupancy rates.

“We’re hoping at the two-week mark, the numbers will say we can come back out,” said the mayor.

“Every day that we have our businesses impacted … whether they are fully closed or whether they are modified, it’s a dangerous time.”

Baker hopes that, if people do their part now, those businesses will be able to reopen sooner.

The lockdown has shuttered or reduced not only businesses, but many city services. Skating at the Rotary Rink downtown is now closed, while tobogganing at the Laurier Hill is open. However, Monday’s weather did not entice many to come out and enjoy that amenity.

Asked about the level of compliance across the tri-county area, the Leeds, Grenville and Lanark District Health Unit issued a statement from medical officer of health Dr. Paula Stewart.

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“We expect that businesses and services are making the adjustments needed to function in the provincial shutdown using processes similar to the ones used in the spring when we were in Phase One,” said Stewart.

“We will be available to support businesses if they need clarification of any of the requirements.”

In a message posted on his Twitter feed, Ontario Municipal Affairs Minister Steve Clark, the local MPP, praised the work of municipalities in responding to the pandemic this year.

“No one signed on for what was in front of us in 2020 because of COVID-19, but every level of government, every mayor, every councillor in every community have really gone above and beyond the call of duty, as well as municipal staff, to provide those critical services to keep people safe,” said Clark.

Rzajac@postmedia.com

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