Lockdown restrictions in Toronto, Peel not clear enough for some businesses, owners say

The list of businesses impacted by a lockdown beginning Monday in Toronto and Peel Region were not clearly communicated, the owner of a Toronto massage spa says.

While the Ontario government offered a partial list of what would remain open after the COVID-19 shutdown begins at 12:01 a.m., Kate Armstrong, owner and director of Bahn Thai Spa, told the Star she was unsure whether her business would be impacted.

The Ontario government’s late-afternoon announcement on Friday stated that personal services, such as nail and hair salons, would now be closed. Missing, however, were details of all services included in the shutdown.

However, on Sunday, the Ministry of Health confirmed to the Star that “regulated health professionals including dentists, optometrists, chiropractic services, ophthalmologists, physical and occupational therapists and podiatrists will be able to operate.”

A spokesperson said that “under lockdown, regulated health professionals, including massage therapists, will be able to operate. Regulated health professionals such as registered massage therapists were not impacted and therefore not referenced.”

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Working “in partnership with the chief medical officer of health and our local medical officers of health, we continue to closely monitor the evolving situation to advise if and when public health measures need to be adjusted,” the spokesperson also said.

In Ontario’s first lockdown last spring, physiotherapy, chiropractic services and massage therapists were among those to close their doors, which left some confused about what is happening this time around.

“We have to continue to communicate with clients that are calling and saying, ‘Are we seeing you on Monday or not?’ We’re having to say we’ll call you as soon as we know something more,” Armstrong said.

“It’s not like a haircut,” she said, adding that people are often seeking massage to treat physical pain or for mental health care.

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To Armstrong, massage has been as important as mental healthcare for Ontarians during the months-long pandemic. “I see the fatigue setting in on everyone’s faces … The stress is so high … right now, (with) people not being able to be with their families. It’s so important to have human touch.”

The Ontario Physiotherapy Association shared the news that physiotherapy services would be able to continue operations, said Shafiq Bhanji, president of Athlete’s Care Sports Medicine Centres.

“We received direction from our respective colleges and professional associations on Friday and over the weekend via email indicating that our services would not be impacted the upcoming lockdown,” Bhanji said in an email to the Star.

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While Bhanji was able to confirm that Athlete’s Care could continue offering services and communicate that to clients via email, patients are still reaching out to verify whether they can keep their appointments.

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“It seems there was a fair bit of confusion in the general public about whether or not these services would be impacted,” Bhanji said. “… We are fortunate that our colleges and professional associations acted quickly to inform their members.”

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