Ontario, Canada, Bans Outdoor Recreation Citing Alleged Coronavirus Risk

Ontario, Canada’s government on Thursday extended a Chinese coronavirus stay-at-home order through June 2 that includes a ban on outdoor recreational activity.

Ontario Premier Doug Ford said on May 13 that he ordered the lockdown extension — in place since April 8 — to curb Chinese coronavirus transmissions across the central Canadian province and “save the summer” following a recent surge in new daily coronavirus cases in Ontario. The order forces thousands of businesses and public schools in Ontario to remain shuttered for nearly three more weeks and bans most outdoor recreation, such as golfing and tennis. The mandate has also shut down outdoor playgrounds for children.

“Outdoor recreational facilities will also remain closed, a decision public health experts have said is misguided and has consequences for people’s physical and mental health,” the Canadian Press reported on May 13.

“The [Ontario] government’s science advisers have said banning outdoor activities will not control COVID-19 [Chinese coronavirus] and disproportionately harm children and those who don’t have access to their own green space,” the news agency noted.

The outdoor recreation ban has drawn particular criticism from Ontario’s golf clubs in recent weeks. Golf Ontario, the provincial sport organization for amateur golf in the province, has publicly urged Ford’s government to reopen golf courses through a “Golf Is Safe” social media campaign, citing medical experts who say that the risk of spreading the Chinese coronavirus through outdoor recreation, especially golf, is extremely low.

“In terms of transmission risk, [Canadian] infectious disease expert Dr. Abdu Sharkawy says ‘golf is as low as it gets when you’re talking outdoor recreational activities,’” Canada’s CTV News reported on April 22.

Premier Ford on May 13 acknowledged Golf Ontario’s criticism of his refusal to allow outdoor recreation during the lockdown period, saying the measure “would stay in place to limit mobility and other behaviour that could contribute to spread of the virus,” according to the Canadian Press.

When asked by reporters on Thursday why he has refused to reopen Ontario’s golf courses, Ford responded, “They [golfers] pick up another buddy, two or three go out, go golfing, there’s nothing wrong with golfing,” he said. “The problem is, then after golf they go back, they have some pops [refreshments]. That’s the problem.”

“We’re constantly told by the political class to follow the science,” Chris Barber, executive professional and general manager at the Landings Golf Course and Teaching Center in Kingston, Ontario, told the Canadian Press on May 14. “Yet the premier [Ford] comes along with a policy that has absolutely nothing to do with science.”

“It’s an anecdotal story he tells about how his buddies go and play golf and have a beer afterwards. If that’s what is driving his policy, then it’s a joke … it absolutely makes no scientific sense. Zero,” Barber said.

Ontario on May 12 reported 2,759 new cases of the Chinese coronavirus, “down from a seven-day average of 4,370 in April,” according to Reuters.

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