The relatively empty streets of Toronto will start to fill again but don’t expect a mad rush downtown once COVID-19 restrictions have lifted in the city, according to those planning for what’s to come.
“It’s hard to really predict the pace of recovery,” Andrew Weir, executive vice-president at Destination Toronto, explained. “What I do know is it’s going to start with residents. It’s going to start with us.”
A variety of government health measures to prevent people from gathering have been in place, in one form or another, for more than a year in the midst of this pandemic.
Sporting events, concerts, and cultural festivals were all cancelled in 2020 and through the beginning of 2021. As well, restaurants have, for the most part, been closed for indoor dining.
“I don’t see it as an on off switch,” Diana Brecher, a clinical psychologist from Ryerson University, said. “I think it’s a dimmer switch and there’s going to be a gradual return.”
Brecher suggested that age may have something to do with who chooses to jump right back into activities that involve large groups. Those in their adolescence or 20-somethings could be feeling a little more invulnerable while older people will likely be conservative in the way they approach new routines.
“You’re going to say ‘you know what, I can listen to great music and film. I don’t have to go to a concert,'” Brecher said. “I will see friends in their home or we’re going to spend family time hiking together.”
Business owners and large venues in Toronto are already betting on people wanting to get out. Scotiabank Arena has set up it’s ‘Back in Action’ plan and has announced concerts starting this summer, including an appearance from Justin Bieber as early as July.
Bars and restaurants may soon have the opportunity to open curbside patios as part of the city’s
CaféTO program, once stay-at-home restrictions are lifted and outdoor dining is permitted again.
“We want to make sure we are doing everything as a city to help businesses be ready to safely welcome customers at the earliest date possible,” Mayor John Tory said.
Installations will begin on May 8.
The early planning comes with the hope that Toronto will come bounce back sooner rather than later, as more and more people get vaccinated and COVID-19 case numbers eventually decrease.
“I truly believe the vibrancy of main streets return after the pandemic,” John Kiru, the executive director for the Toronto Association of Business Improvement Areas, said.
“The pent up demand of getting out and enjoying the local restaurants, the local cafes, even visiting the old shop where you used the get a great pair of shoes will be there.”
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio announced Thursday that stores, restaurants, salons, and arenas there will be fully open for business there as of July 1. More than six-million doses of COVID-19 vaccines have been administered in that city to this point.
While Toronto has handed out more than 1.1-million doses as of Thursday, it will likely be some time before people feel like they’re about to enjoy the things they once did again.
“There may be a kind of a slow momentum building,” Brecher explained. “Then, you know, within six months to a year, maybe it will go back to normal.”