Ontario outdoor recreational facilities to stay closed until cases drop: minister

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Ontario’s closure of outdoor recreational facilities will remain in place until COVID-19 cases decline significantly, the government said Tuesday.

Health Minister Christine Elliott said the province currently has no timeline for the reopening of facilities such as tennis courts and golf courses.

“We need to limit our mobility as much as possible to reduce transmission and we are going to be assessing this,” she said.

“But for right now we will need to continue with those measures in place to reduce mobility and reduce transmission.”

Elliott noted that although there were 2,791 new cases reported in Ontario on Tuesday — the lowest in weeks — the case total could rise again.

She also said the number of COVID-19 hospitalizations and patients in intensive-care units would have to go down and a backlog of surgeries would have to be worked through before the ban on outdoor sports and other restrictions can be lifted.

“There isn’t an exact rate at this point but our medical experts are telling us that we need to see a continued reduction before we can start thinking about opening things up again,” she said.

The province brought in the ban on outdoor recreational facilities in April, when it extended a stay-at-home order and imposed further restrictions amid soaring cases.

Its science advisers have criticized the restriction of outdoor activities, saying they will not control COVID-19 and disproportionately harm children and those who don’t have access to their own green space.

Some facilities have been flouting the rules and taking on the consequences — a course in Tillsonburg, Ont., and some of its players have been charged under the restrictions.

Sport Minister Lisa MacLeod said she had been meeting with representatives of the golf community but didn’t expect courses to be allowed to open soon.

“I do not see changes happening imminently, but will continue to work with our stakeholders and our public health officials to ensure a return to play, as soon as it’s safe to do so,” she said in a statement.

Mike Kelly, the executive director of the Golf Association of Ontario, said that his organization has had productive conversations with the province but he believes courses are safe and should be allowed to open.

“We also understand that mobility remains a concern of health officials and it should be encouraging that the clear data supports that golfers are not travelling across the province to play a round of golf,” he said.

“They are looking to play their local golf course in their home community for the physical and mental health break that the sport provides.”

Members of the tennis community have also been pushing for a change to the rules.

James Boyce, president and CEO of the Ontario Tennis Association, said that while he supports the government’s measures, he’s eager for people to return to tennis once it’s safe to do so.

“We have everything in place to make the tennis experience safe,” said Boyce, who had a meeting with government officials Tuesday.

Boyce noted, however, that the prolonged closure of outdoor recreational facilities could have an impact on people’s mental health.

“We’re indoors, we’re not socializing, we’re not hugging each other,” said Boyce.  “I think once we get out of May, if everything goes as planned, I think we should be in pretty good shape. Tennis people are just going to have to get through May.”

The NDP’s sports critic said he wanted to see outdoor recreational facilities opened as soon as possible.

Paul Miller argued that outdoor activity is important for mental health and that many small businesses have been negatively impacted by the ban.

“All the experts were recommending that outdoor recreational activities should be open,” he said.

“It’s nonsense to me that volleyball courts, golf courses, tennis courts, basketball, etc., were on lockdown.”

John Chidley-Hill, The Canadian Press

5 COMMENTS

  1. IT IS TIME tO OPEN UP all OUTDOOR ACTIVITIES. It is silly that garden centres are closed. If people could get their gardening supplies they could spend time in their backyards…gardens and flower beds instead of being holed up in their houses waiting for the Conservative party to make their next blunder.

  2. We are being fed a load of lies by Christine Elliot and the rest of the conservative team and i will not forget at election time. Firstly our rates of infection in sault ste. marie and area and very low. Due to this we get rewarded by being in lockdown and being last to get vaccines because we are not a covid hotspot. Secondly the conservatives are not following any science with these bans on recreational activity. Infact Dr. Issac Bogoch , a member of the COVID-19 Science Table. stated “The science is pretty clear: the risk of transmission for COVID-19 in outdoor settings is extremely rare. Dr. Sumon Chakrabarti, an infectious disease specialist at Trillium Health Partners, stated The problem is when you close these things, you drive these people indoors. You might feel better but the risk of transmission is now much higher,” So i ask when the chorus from high profile doctors is to open up recreational activities for help with the covid transmission and for the mental health of people who have been locked down endlessly, who is the Ford government really listening to?

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