Golf courses and other outdoor amenities are set to reopen in Ontario on Saturday, as COVID-19 cases in the province continue to trend down.
The Ford government revealed what it calls the “Roadmap to Reopen” on Thursday, highlighting what will be allowed provincewide throughout the summer months, beginning with outdoor activities resuming for the Victoria Day long weekend.
Under Ontario’s Reopening Act, the province will allow for the resumption of multiple outdoor recreational activities.
These include golf courses, tennis courts, skateboarding parks, sports fields, BMX and skate parks, shooting ranges and archery ranges, and horse riding.
Outdoor gathering limits for social gatherings and organized public events will be expanded to five people, including members of different households. The rule changes will take effect at 12:01 a.m. on Saturday.
Physical distancing must be still be in place at outdoor facilities.
In a release, the City of Toronto says they will be ready for outdoor activities to resume this weekend. They say that while tennis courts and golf courses will be open, “team sports cannot be played or practiced.”
The City of Mississauga says they will be ready to go for Saturday, May 22nd as well. In a release, Mayor Bonnie Crombie says “Outdoor activity is important from a mental health perspective and with the warmer weather here, we know residents will be accessing these amenities more.”
Despite loosening restrictions on outdoor recreation, the province’s stay-at-home order will still remain in effect until at least June 2.
It is not likely to stop some GTA residents from heading to their cottages for the long weekend.
As per the order, residents are not to travel outside of their region unless it is for an essential purpose.
It does permit people to travel to another residence, such as a cottage, for non-essential reasons if they are intended to stay for at least two weeks. People are also permitted to travel to another residence for an essential purpose, such as maintenance, if they intend to be their for less than 24 hours.
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.
“It’s absolutely doable,” he said of reopening outdoor recreational facilities. “It allows you to play beach volleyball or baseball, for example, all relatively easily. You just need to adhere to these rules.”
The latest round of provincial modelling released on Thursday encouraged residents to safely take part in outdoor activities, saying that if at least two metres of physical distancing can’t be maintained, a mask is necessary.
When asked earlier this week if outdoor amenities would reopen in time for the May long weekend, Solicitor General Sylvia Jones said it might be in the province’s best interest to wait for the long weekend to pass before taking that long-awaited step.
“We have seen, and we now have the data to show that generally when we have a long weekend there is a spike of an increase of cases, we don’t want to see that,” Jones admitted.