outdoor recreational amenities

People are still playing outdoor sports in Toronto despite new restrictions

The Ontario government announced a list of new public health restrictions last week meant to help curb the alarming spread of COVID-19, many of which have been called insufficient and nonsensical by experts and members of the public alike.

Among the restrictions that have been criticized by Ontarians is a ban on outdoor sports and activities such as golf, basketball, soccer, playing on playgrounds and outdoor gatherings of all kinds.

Following an outpouring of outrage from parents who are running out of ways to occupy their children more than a year into the pandemic, Premier Doug Ford walked back the playground closure this weekend, saying the "regulations will be amended to allow playgrounds but gatherings outside will still be enforced."

But while the remaining outdoor restrictions officially came into effect on April 17, it seems some people have chosen to ignore the rules and continue playing outdoor sports nonetheless. 

outdoor recreational amenities

A beach volleyball game along Toronto's waterfront on Saturday afteroon around 3 p.m. Photo by CRobinson. 

Photos sent to blogTO and posted to social media show people in Toronto playing sports such as tennis and beach volleyball over the weekend, both of which are technically illegal.

Golf enthusiasts have been particularly outraged about the new restrictions, with a petition calling for the reopening of golf courses garnering tens of thousands of signatures and some even choosing to protest the rule over the weekend.

Another petition calling for the reopening of all outdoor recreational amenities has meanwhile amassed roughly 6,000 signatures thus far.

"Blanket prohibition of most social and recreation activities will have the opposite effect the Government of Ontario is trying to achieve," reads the petition.

"If not allowed to participate in safe outdoor recreation, people will instead participate in risky indoor activities out of public view, which will spread the COVID virus to new networks of people.  These are people who would NOT have been affected if the very low risk outdoor recreation had been permitted in the first place."

And though these activities are technically now prohibited in Ontario, experts continue to argue that the risk of transmission is far lower outdoors and that restricting outdoor activities is simply not the way to stop the spread of COVID-19 in the province.

"Look, I understand and take seriously our need in Ontario to do what it takes to reduce transmission significantly, but prohibiting the use of playgrounds, sport fields, skateparks etc., just doesn't fit what we know about COVID-19," wrote Troy Daniel Glover, director of the University of Waterloo's Healthy Communities Research Network, on Twitter this past weekend.

"Outdoor spread is highly unlikely. No crowds? Sure. Safe physical distancing? Of course. No outdoor activity? Give me a break. I mean that literally; give people a break from their isolation. They need the fresh air, physical activity, and social connection. All are so crucial to making it through a pandemic."

Instead, as they have been for months, experts are calling for targeted measures where the majority of outbreaks are happening: indoor workplaces. 

"Any indoor workplace in Ontario is DANGEROUS right now," said critical care physician Brooks Fallis on Sunday. "COVID is airborne but Ontario & Canada are pretending it's not. Public Health Ontario and Dr Williams must urgently address the glaring lack of safety standards in workplaces based on current science."

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