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'It will happen on or before June 2': Province rejects immediate reopening of outdoor activities

Last Updated May 17, 2021 at 3:53 pm EDT

Tennis courts in Kingston, Ontario sit empty due to the stay-at-home order on Tuesday, April 20, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS IMAGES/Lars Hagberg

The Ford government is holding off on reopening outdoor amenities during the emergency stay-at-home order, while at the same time offered some hope that outdoor settings could get back to normal ahead of schedule.

The province decided to close all recreational amenities back on April 16 and later announced that they will remain shuttered through the early portion of the shutdown, which expires on June 2.

At Queen’s Park, an NDP motion to safely and immediately reopen facilities including golf courses and tennis courts got the thumbs down.

“Today is not the day to open everything up, I believe that would be irresponsible,” Health Minister Christine Elliott said.

“We are anticipating that there may be other events – summer camps, golf, tennis – [and] other things may be available as of June 2 or perhaps before depending on the clinical evidence we receive.”


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Ontario’s Science Advisory Table has repeatedly called for allowing residents to gather outdoors, safely, saying activities like golf, tennis and beach volleyball are low risk.

Dr. Peter Juni said recently that in some cases if physical distancing cannot be maintained during the activity, people should wear masks.

Juni says public health officials must address activities linked with the sports – like car-pooling or sharing a locker room – which represents a greater risk of COVID-19 exposure.

When asked during a news conference if it is not prudent to wait two more weeks before opening up outdoor amenities in the province, NDP leader Andrea Horwath said people need these types of outlets as soon as possible.

“What we see here is a government that continues to not follow the science and not follow the advice of public health and their own science table…hanging on for another two weeks when all of the experts say it is not necessary is quite punishing for people.”

 

A recorded vote on the NDP’s motion is expected to happen later in the day.

Premier Doug Ford has defended his government’s approach to barring recreational activities saying hobbies, such as golf, can be delayed a few weeks longer.

“They pick up another buddy, two or three go out, go golfing, there’s nothing wrong with golfing,” he said recently.

“The problem is, then after golf they go back, they have some pops. That’s the problem.”

Health Minister Elliott, meanwhile, says the province is looking into how overnight camps may reopen this summer.

The Canadian Camping Association says it expects day camps will be allowed to operate in some capacity as COVID-19 restrictions are expected to ease across Canada.

Ford offered hope that the province’s summer camps would be given the green light to operate this season without providing any details.

Ford stated this weekend camps would be able to open for the coming summer, though did not specify whether he was referring to day or overnight facilities.

“The more people can come out [to get vaccinated], the quicker we can open up. And we are going to open up very, very soon,” said Ford.

“And I have to say one thing about the summer camps – July 3 is usually the time they open and they’re opening up this year.”

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