Ford retreats on playground restriction

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New rules took affect this morning, but the premier has rolled one back and police departments are refusing to use the other

The signs on Petrolia’s parks are coming down again after Premier Doug Ford reversed a decision to close outdoor playgrounds to stop the spread of COVID-19.

The premier announced the move Friday while acknowledging Ontario is “on its heels” because the COVID-19 pandemic. Today, over 4,300 people contracted the virus – with nearly 1,300 in hospital and more than 700 in the intensive care units – over 500 on ventilators.

Scientists say Ontario is likely to hit 10,000 cases per day without strong measures including paid sick leave for essential workers who are continuing to go to work with COVID-19 because they can’t afford to stay home.

Ford didn’t do that. Instead, he gave police powers to enforce the Stay-at-Home order by stopping people without cause and demanding their name and address. Ontario’s largest police departments – except for the OPP – have already said they won’t be randomly stopping people. The OPP, which is charged with putting up check points at the borders between Manitoba and Quebec, said in a tweet it would be stopping people to ask why they aren’t at home.

Major media outlets, including Global News, say that order is now being reconsidered.

But the premier has already scrapped one of the rules only in affect for a half a day – the closure of playgrounds. “Ontario’s enhanced restrictions were always intended to stop large gatherings where spread can happen,” the premier said on Twitter this afternoon.

“Our regulations will be amended to allow playgrounds but gatherings outside will still be enforced. Play outside safely. Parents keep your distance and wear masks if you can’t.”

Officials in Petrolia have already begun to take down the signs which prohibited children from using the local parks.