With the deadline about to pass, at 11:59 p.m. on Tuesday night, all non-essential stores in Toronto need to shut down. Police is prepared to take control if that doesn't happen: if emergency protocol is not followed by shop owners, officers are more than ready to "do their duty."
On Monday, March 23, Ontario Premier Doug Ford ordered all non-essential stores in the province to close.
And Toronto Mayor John Tory followed suit by declaring a state of emergency as numbers increased over the last few days and the 6ix saw its first death from COVID-19.
Now, according to CTV News, Toronto Police Chief Mark Saunders says his officers will be driving around the city starting after midnight. Their brief? To ensure that non-essential businesses are complying with the new shutdown order.
"My officers will be driving, and they will be looking, and if they see non-compliance, then they will do their duty,” Saunders told reporters on Tuesday afternoon, per CTV.
"The provincial state of emergency put into place certain enforcement capacity, which means if people are in noncompliance, we can take action."
Saunders added that non-compliance would be charged under the Provincial Offences Act unless escalated to criminal action, which would likely be punished by fines ranging from $750 to $100,000 per day.
As of the early afternoon update on March 24, Toronto has reached a total number of 280 cases of COVID-19.
That is a considerable spike from the 239 cases reported on March 23.
Saunders stressed this police action is nothing more than a health and safety measure.
“This is a health issue, all you’re doing is putting people in harm’s way if you’re open. So, by being closed, it gives us the opportunity to really flatten this curve,” said Saunders via CTV.
Even before this week's increase in cases, Toronto had already highly recommended that non-essential businesses close up shop for the next few weeks.
This order put out by the Ford government makes that non-negotiable. The province has already issued a list of stores that are considered essential.
But while stores are now forced to close, some Torontonians are reportedly still not practicing social distancing, which the city's medical officer, Dr. Eileen de Villa, calls "irresponsible."
Dr. De Villa shared some strong words on Tuesday, insisting that residents' civil liberties could be at risk if people do not comply.
The city is certainly making every effort it can to flatten the curve.