‘We wanted to limit mobility’: Doug Ford defends outdoor amenity closures despite science table advice

Ontario Premier Doug Ford defended his government’s closure of outdoor amenities during question period at Queen’s Park on Wednesday, despite advice from some of his own advisers who say that they should be open.

In response to a question from the Opposition challenging the closures, Ford said the goal behind ordering outdoor amenities like golf courses and tennis courts to close is limiting mobility in a bid to slow the spread of COVID-19. 

“I have a great deal of respect for the health table and the science table,” Ford said.

Read more: Ontario could reopen more outdoor spaces even with stay-at-home order, science table adviser says

“We did receive a couple of messages there to limit mobility, so we wanted to limit mobility.”

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Last month, the Ford government ordered the closure of outdoor amenities as it implemented tighter restrictions amid a stay-at-home order and rising COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations.

The science table advising the province has criticized the restriction of outdoor activities, saying they will not control COVID-19 and disproportionately harm children and those who don’t have access to their own green space.

Paediatricians urge Ontario to reopen outdoor activities for kids’ mental health

Experts say outdoor activities have a lower risk of spreading COVID-19.

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Dr. Peter Juni, the scientific director of the advisory table, said that even gatherings outdoors of up to 10 people from two different households could be done safely if physical distancing and masking are adhered to.

Still, Ford said he believes the measures are necessary.

Read more: Ontario outdoor recreational facilities to stay closed until COVID-19 cases drop: minister

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“Limit mobility, make sure everyone stays at home, but, in other cases, if they go out everyone has to wear a mask,” Ford said.

“The good news is the numbers are leveling off, so the protocols and the guidelines are working. And Mr. Speaker, I listen to everyone, but I listen to Dr. [David] Williams. He’s the chief medical officer and he believes that people need to limit mobility. They need to stay home.”

When asked by the Opposition if his government would allow for a loosening of restrictions on outdoor activities, Ford didn’t address the question and instead called for stronger border measures.

Read more: Ontario government must ‘immediately’ reopen outdoor spaces: Canadian Paediatric Society

The Ford government initially backtracked on one outdoor amenity closure: playgrounds.

Ford said Wednesday that Dr. Adalsteinn Brown from the science table advised the government that playgrounds should be closed if people are not masking, which Ford said he still believes people are not doing when using the amenities.

Despite that, the government reopened playgrounds one day after announcing their closure last month amid backlash.

The current stay-at-home order is set to expire on May 20, though sources have told Global News that the government is looking at possibly extending it into June.

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— With files from The Canadian Press and Jessica Patton

Ontario camps call on the province to reopen outdoor activities this summer

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