recreational amenities ontario

Ontario says outdoor recreational amenities will reopen in 2 weeks or less

Golfers, tennis players and everyone else whose passions involve the use of public outdoor equipment have just a little bit longer to wait before they can get back into the swing of things.

Or so says Ontario Health Minister Christine Elliot.

"Today is not the day to open everything up. I believe that it would be irresponsible for us to do that today," said Elliott at Queen's Park on Monday when addressing the pressure upon her government to reopen outdoor recreational amenities.

"But we are following the evidence on a daily basis and it will happen on or before June 2."

June 2 is, of course, the new end date for Ontario's provincewide shutdown, which first came into effect on April 3. Stay-at-home orders, handed down just a week later on April 8, are also set to expire on June 2 — but only if health officials determine that it's safe enough to lift them at the time.

Either way, Elliott's comments suggest that the government is finally starting to budge when it comes allowing the use of outdoor amenities, most of which have been closed since mid-April to mitigate the pandemic's third wave.

While parks and beaches remain open in Ontario, stay-at-home orders have led to the prohibition of basketball courts, soccer fields, baseball diamonds, lawn bowling greens, disk golf courses, regular golf courses, skate ramps, dry pads, outdoor fitness equipment and even picnic tables.

Ontario Premier Doug Ford has been adamant to date that the closures were necessary to discourage anyone from leaving their houses for non-essential reasons, but people are leaving their houses regardless, and experts say keeping recreational amenities shuttered is doing more harm than good.

The Ontario Medical Association, the City of Toronto and even members of the province's own COVID-19 science advisory table have all publicly condemned the closure of outdoor amenities in recent weeks, labelling the move unnecessary if not even harmful.

Late last week, another push to reopen came in the form of a report from Native Child and Family Services of Toronto, SickKids hospital, and researchers from the Factor-Inwentash Faculty of Social Work at the University of Toronto.

"While the prevalence, symptoms and health outcomes of COVID-19 tend to be much less severe for children and youth compared to adults, the toll of the pandemic and the associated public health restrictions on child health, development and well-being is severe," reads the call to action.

"Ontario cannot afford to ignore the increasing consequences of pandemic restrictions on the health and well-being of children and youth."

Researchers concede that it's important to continue to implement public health measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19, but say that the reopening of schools must be prioritized along with access to "open outdoor activities."

"The science is clear that the risk of outdoor transmission of COVID-19 is substantially lower than indoor transmission, especially with appropriate distancing and personal protective equipment (PPE)," reads the report.

"Therefore, there is an urgent need to prioritize outdoor activities for children and youth to begin to mitigate the devastating and inequitable effects of pandemic-related restrictions on their health and well-being, and to support an active recovery for children, youth and their families."

Lead photo by

Lauren O'Neil

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