Canadians objected Saturday to new pandemic restrictions imposed by the nation’s most populous province, as police departments insisted they wouldn't use new powers to randomly stop motorists and health experts complained the rules focus on outdoor activities rather than more dangerous indoor settings.
Ontario Premier Doug Ford’s government announced Friday it was giving police authority to require anyone not at home to explain why they’re out and provide their address. Tickets can be written.
But at least a dozen forces throughout Ontario, including in the capital of Toronto, said there will be no random stops of people or cars.
"We are all going through a horrific year of COVID-19 and all associated with it together. The (department) will not be randomly stopping vehicles for no reason during the pandemic or afterwards,” Halton Police Chief Steve Tanner tweeted.
The new rules limit outdoor gatherings to those in the same household and close playgrounds and golf courses. The decisions sparked widespread criticism in a province already on lockdown. Restaurants and gyms are closed as is in-class schooling. Most nonessential workers are working from home.
Ford complained about crowded parks and playgrounds, but at Friday's new conference did not mention workplaces considered essential, such as factories, where the virus is spreading
"What we need: increased restrictions to reduce indoor contact, supports for frontline essential workers, paid sick leave, a re-prioritized vaccine rollout for hard-hit communities,” tweeted Joe Cressy, who is on Toronto’s city council.
"What we got: the closure of outdoor amenities, which we need to keep people safe and healthy.”
"I have yet to intubate a COVID-19 patient who had become infected from being in a playground,” tweeted Dr. Ian Preyra, who works at Joseph Brant Hospital in Burlington, Ontario.
Dr. Andrew Morris, a professor of infectious diseases at the University of Toronto, said that closing playgrounds and other outdoor recreation facilities "will hurt the very kids and their families whose well-being we have already damaged by being forced to close schools.” He complained the new rules don't create paid sick leave or improved protections for essential workers even as they allow "police to target whomever they choose to accost them to ensure they are appropriately outside of their home.
"This won’t affect a white guy like me. This is going to target essential workers and racialized people. This is what people talk about when they describe systemic racism,” Morris wrote in weekly email to followers. "I am absolutely disgusted, as are pretty well all of my colleagues.”
Ontario reported 4,362 new infections on Saturday and a record 2,065 people in hospital receiving treatment for COVID-19. It has pleaded with other provinces to send nurses and other health workers.
Vaccinations have ramped up in Canada, the presence of more contagious variants in Ontario has led to a third wave of infections.
Ford said a lack of vaccines made the new restrictions necessary.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced Friday that that Pfizer would double its shipments of vaccines to Canada over the next month , with millions more shots than expected arriving in May and June.
Every eligible Canadian is expected to get at least one shot by July.
Ontario just closed schools days ago after insisting for weeks they were safe. The new order to close playgrounds infuriated parents.
"The cognitive dissonance between the minister of education insisting schools are safe and then shutting playgrounds down boggles the mind,” said Jim Vlahos, a 44 year-old father of two in Toronto.
"There's no rhyme or reason to the outdoor closures.”
Owen Holliday, a golfer, said he was very upset, especially for seniors who get their exercise through the sport.
"With all the protocols, prepaid booking, clubhouses closed, masks on if riding with someone outside of household, no gatherings after tee times, golf is as safe as it can get,” he said.
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