Local businesses are bracing for challenging times ahead as the province announced Dec. 21 it is plunging Haliburton County and the rest of Ontario into another lockdown.
Premier Doug Ford said the restrictions would begin Dec. 26. The move means the end of indoor organized gatherings beyond households, no dine-in at restaurants and most retail limited to curbside pickup or delivery. The municipality is grouped into southern Ontario, where the lockdown will last for at least 28 days. Businesses began posting notices about announcements to come as they sorted through the new restrictions.
Haliburton Highlands Chamber of Commerce president, Andrea Strano, said the new rules are going to hurt.
“We must rally around our local businesses and support them,” she said. “Because I believe a second lockdown is even more devastating than the first.”
Provincial COVID-19 cases continue to surge, with more than 2,200 announced Dec. 22 and still trending upward. Cases in the Haliburton, Kawartha, Pine Ridge (HKPR) District Health Unit are also increasing, but that is predominantly in Northumberland. The County has zero confirmed active cases as of Dec. 22, and none since Dec. 9.
“We’ve seen very, very low numbers here in Haliburton County so I understand why people are going to be angry and disappointed by this news,” Strano said. “Additional support measures from the federal and provincial government will be needed.”
The province did announce a new grant Dec. 21 providing between $10,000- $20,000 for eligible small businesses. Ford further said the move was a necessary step and directly addressed regions such as HKPR under lower-level restrictions.
“The risk of interprovincial travel and further spread is a big concern,” he said. “We see people are moving from region to region and bringing COVID with them. The health officials are telling us province-wide action is needed to break these trends.”
Warden Liz Danielsen also said there is considerable travel in and out of the County. She added it may seem like a harsh measure, but COVID numbers are increasing and the health sector is taxed.
“Let’s all do everything we can to ensure its effectiveness,” Danielsen said. “We may be suffering from COVID overload, but we have to act responsibly to keep our numbers down.”
Several types of operations will be outright closed, including ski hills like Sir Sam’s Ski and Ride, swimming pools, museums, tours and personal care services. Others will be allowed to open, but with more limited capacity or stringent protocols.
“While this is devastating news for the ski industry, we must do our part to help stop the spread of COVID-19,” Sir Sam’s management said in a Facebook post.
Haliburton Forest general manager Tegan Legge said the business will take a hit with several of their attractions closing, including their wolf centre, ice fishing and guided tours. Still, she said she has a positive outlook after a successful summer and fall.
“It’s not going to affect a lot of what the locals could do here anyway. Our recreational trails can still be open. The restaurants can still be open for pickup,” Legge said. “When it comes to the health and safety of everyone in the province – and we see the increasing cases coming along – it was long overdue to do a lockdown.”
Strano said she is proud of how local businesses have persevered so far, but they need significant help through the coming weeks.
“I’m remaining hopeful that they will continue to do so and come out on the other side with their shirts on their back still, but it’s going to take a village,” she said. “We need the support of this entire community.”