After more than a year of varying levels of restrictions, pandemic fatigue has clearly descended upon a weary population, Simcoe-Muskoka’s medical officer of health has acknowledged.
As a result, people as well as those with businesses have sometimes ignored the rules, some brazenly.
On Wednesday afternoon, a Barrie restaurant owner who defied closure orders was fined after being warned earlier in the week.
“All of us feel fatigued by this pandemic. It has been going on for over year; it has taken a very serious toll on our collective well-being,” Dr. Charles Gardner said during a media briefing over Zoom on Wednesday.
He pointed out that so many have become ill and died as a result of COVID-19.
Restricted access to health care and our general social movement and close contact with others have also impacted businesses and their ability to make ends meet.
Some Barrie-area businesses were remaining open despite orders to close.
Gardner said the general approach by the agencies that regulate those businesses has been to first educate the business and make them aware of the orders. That can be followed by enforcement.
And that’s what happened when both Beauty and Babes hair salon and The Simmering Kettle restaurant remained open. Both were given warnings.
On Wednesday, Simmering Kettle owner Shalu Persaud said she was overwhelmed with the support the Bryne Drive restaurant had received with customers coming from all around.
“This is what I need to do,” she said Wednesday, shortly before city bylaw officers entered into the business again. “There’s no backing down now. You should see the community support. My heart is so full.”
Persaud emphasized the restaurant is being careful by taking precautions, which includes cleaning and sanitizing all of the tables.
And even with new shutdown orders coming down, Persaud said she was intending to stay the course and continue serving customers.
The restaurant was issued a $1,000 fine Wednesday, but Persaud said she’s set her course and is determined to follow it, with plans to open again on Thursday. As for the ticket, she says she intends to fight it.
New stay-at-home orders announced by Premier Doug Ford on Wednesday take effect after midnight tonight. Retailers are largely restricted to curbside pick-up and big box stores will be limited to selling essential items, such as groceries, pharmacy items, household and personal care items.
Gardner said the limited-access approach is the best one.
“I would agree that it should apply in all settings including the big box stores in order to maximally protective of the public, reducing the kind of movement and mingling that could result in transmission,” he said. “There have been a lot of concerns raised about the fairness among retailers with regards to a common approach.”
Beauty and Babes hair salon owner Melissa Ferguson had intended to remain open, but thought the new shutdown orders better levelled the playing field and has decided to close her business again.
“My biggest thing has always been about just having a fair playing ground for all businesses big or small and it does look like they’re going to start limiting some of that business for the bigger box stores," she said. "And if the government feels that it’s important enough, then I’m willing to shut down, too."
But small business owners like Ferguson have also struggled to make a living.
During the past year, the salon has been closed a total of seven months, following pandemic-related orders. And while she hasn’t qualified for federal supports, such as the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB), she is hopeful that the remotely operated hair academy attached to the salon will help carry her during the latest closure.