Outdoor recreation facilities in Ontario to remain closed until COVID-19 cases fall: Minister

TORONTO – Ontario’s outdoor recreational facilities will remain closed until COVID-19 cases drop significantly.

Health Minister Christine Elliott said there is currently no time in the province to reopen facilities such as tennis courts and golf courses.

“We need to limit our mobility as much as possible to reduce transmission and we’re going to assess it,” she said.

“But at the moment we will need to continue those measures to reduce mobility and reduce transmission.”

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Elliott noted that although 2,791 new cases were reported in Ontario on Tuesday – the lowest in a week – the case total could rise again.

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He also said that patients in COVID-19 hospitals and intensive care units would have to go down and work through a backlog of surgery before banning outdoor sports and removing other restrictions.

“There is no exact rate at this time but our medical experts are telling us that before we can start thinking about reopening things, we need to see a sustained decrease,” he said.

The province banned outdoor recreation facilities in April, when it extended the order to stay at home and imposed further restrictions amid growing cases.

Its science advisors have criticized the banning of outdoor activities, saying that they will not control COVID-19 and harm children and those who do not have their own green space.

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Some facilities are flouting rules and leading to results – a course in Tilsenburg, Ont. And some of its players have been charged under the ban.

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Sports Minister Lisa McLeod said she was meeting with representatives from the golf community, but did not expect the courses to open soon.

She said in a statement, “I do not see the changes happening around, but will continue to work with our stakeholders and our public health officials.”

Mike Kelly, executive director of the Golf Association of Ontario, said his organization has had productive conversations with the province, but believes the courses are safe and should be allowed to open.

“We also understand that mobility remains a concern of health officials and should be encouraging that clear data supports that golfers are not traveling across the province to play a round of golf,” he said.

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“They want to play their local golf course in their home community for physical and mental health breaks that provide the game.”

Members of the tennis community are also pushing for a change in the rules.

Ontario Tennis Association President and CEO James Boyce said that while he supports the government’s measures, he is eager to see people return to tennis once it is safe to do so.

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“We have everything to make the tennis experience safe,” said Boyce, who had a meeting with government officials on Tuesday.

However, Boyce said that prolonged closures of outdoor recreational facilities could affect people’s mental health.

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“We’re indoors, we’re not socializing, we’re not hugging each other,” Boyce said. “I think once we get out of May, if everything goes according to plan, I think we should be in very good shape. The tennis guys are just going to get through May .

The NDP sports reviewer said he wanted to open outdoor recreation facilities as soon as possible.

Paul Miller argued that outdoor activity is important for mental health and that many small businesses have been negatively affected by the ban.

“All experts were recommending that outdoor recreational activities be open,” he said.

“It’s nonsense to me that volleyball courts, golf courses, tennis courts, basketball, etc. were on lockdown.”

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