Ontario shutters playgrounds, beaches as emergency order extended over COVID-19
Published Monday, March 30, 2020 2:03PM EDT
Last Updated Tuesday, March 31, 2020 12:25AM EDT
The Ford government is ordering the closure of all communal or shared, public or private, outdoor recreational amenities across Ontario in order to help stem the transmission of COVID-19.
The order was issued under the Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act Monday evening and is effective immediately.
The sweeping edict shutters spaces such as playgrounds, dog parks, sports fields, basketball and tennis courts, beaches, condo parks and gardens, and other recreational facilities.
In a statement, the province said that it made the move based on the advice of the province’s Chief Medical Officer of Health, Dr. David Williams.
Green spaces in parks, trails, ravines and conservation areas that aren't otherwise closed will remain open for walkthrough access, as long as people maintain a distance of at least two metres from others.
"I made a commitment to be open and upfront about what we need to do as a province to beat this virus," Premier Doug Ford said in a statement. "Based on the best medical advice available, we are taking further steps today to protect the health and safety of all Ontarians by closing outdoor recreational amenities, like sports fields and playgrounds, and extending our emergency orders to save lives.
“We all need to work together and do our part to stop COVID-19 by staying home, practising physical distancing, and avoiding social gatherings."
Similar orders were already in place in a number of Ontario municipalities, such as Toronto and Vaughan.
Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing Steve Clark said in a statement that the new order makes the rules around outdoor recreational amenities “consistent across the province."
Earlier in the day, Ford said he will be extending his emergency declaration for another two weeks as the number of new cases continues to rise in the province.
Ford issued a state of emergency in Ontario on March 17 and on Monday, one day before the order was set to expire, the premier confirmed it would be extended.
Speaking at Queen’s Park on Monday during his daily update on the province’s response to COVID-19, Ford said that the province will be assessing whether to extend the order on a two-week basis.
The premier added that he is willing to take “further action” if virus cases continue to spike in Ontario.
“It was a beautiful weekend. The sun was shining, it was nearly 20 degrees out. From what I saw and what my colleagues saw, the streets were packed and that is unacceptable,” he said.
“We need every person in this province to take a hard look at their habits because as I have always said, every option is on the table and we are prepared to take further action if we do not see the spread of this virus slow down in the coming days.”
Ford said he “won’t hesitate to pull the trigger” on further measures if the experts advise him to do so.
“I think we’ve shown as soon as I get and our team gets the advice off the chief medical officer of health… we act immediately,” he said. “When they gave us the advice about the schools, we acted in an hour, similar to the emergency shut downs.”
Ontario's Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. David Williams said Monday afternoon that health officials are monitoring the situation to see if additional measures will be necessary.
"That is always on our mind as we are looking at what are the essential services that will allow Ontarians to stay at home, to keep up their social distancing," he said at a news conference on Monday afternoon.
He added that if they are finding situations where health care workers and first-responders are being put at risk by members of the general population, enhanced measures could be considered.
"We are not ignoring the issue," Williams said.
Ontario reported 351 new cases of the virus on Monday, bringing the provincial total to 1,706, including deaths and recoveries.
Ford warned that a “surge” in hospitalizations in the coming days could put a strain on the province’s medical supply inventory.
“The reality is, if there is a massive surge of people coming into our hospitals in the next two weeks, our supply lines will be seriously challenged,” he added.
“So every week, every day, every hour we can push back that surge, is another week, another day, another hour that we have to prepare.”
The premier noted that the province is currently in the process of acquiring “massive amounts” of new inventory.
“We are working day and night, working every contact that we have to acquire medical supplies from every source possible, around the world, across Canada and here at home in Ontario,” he said.
“The hard truth is, the more time we have, the more lives we can save… We can’t do this without your full support… if you can, please, please stay home.”