CORNWALL – The region’s top doctor says he considered an order to close all local stores on Sunday during the coronavirus outbreak.
But Medical Officer of Health Dr. Paul Roumeliotis felt it would unfairly punish local people giving them less opportunity to shop for essential goods versus the risk from Quebecers coming to the area.
Roumeliotis was asked by Cornwall Newswatch whether he considered a Section 22 order to close all businesses on Sunday to keep away Quebec residents. The province accounts for 52 per cent of Canadian coronavirus cases and almost 60 per cent of deaths.
Quebec has closed down stores on Sunday to give essential workers a break, but that has led to Quebecers streaming across the provincial border to do their shopping in South Glengarry and Cornwall, according to some local residents.
“I likely do (have the power) but I have to have a good reasoning,” Roumeliotis said Friday. “I did think about it, to be honest with you. I’m not sure that I would want to do it at this point. I’d rather keep our businesses open so Ontarians can shop, so that’s my balance.”
Both Roumeliotis and MP Eric Duncan say MPP Jim McDonell has looked into the issue but doesn’t see Quebec residents coming to South Glengarry, Cornwall or Morrisburg for Sunday shopping as a problem.
“I know in the last few Sundays and Easter Monday when there was Quebec closures and some of our stores were open, Jim has actually gone around to several places, Walmart, grocery stores in Cornwall and Lancaster and tried to get an idea of how many Quebec plates that there are,” Duncan said.
“He’s seen less than one per cent of licence plates be from Quebec,” the MP added. He also mentioned that some Quebec and New York State plates are also Akwesasne residents who are entitled to shop in Cornwall.
As for shutting down the Quebec flow, Duncan adds that it would be more of a challenge to control traffic in Glengarry County, compared to border points near Hawkesbury in Prescott-Russell.
“Not only is there the 401, but I think there is about 10 or 15 roads between North Glengarry, South Glengarry and Quebec that we would have to stop,” the MP added.
Duncan believes the “overwhelming majority” of people have stopped flow between the two provinces and the O.P.P. is “monitoring it.”
“I know with police and all of our resources, everybody is stretched very thin right now. It’s not that we don’t care or it’s not an issue,” Duncan said, noting it’s about dedicating those police resources to the biggest issue and challenges during the pandemic.