A total of 520 parks will open on Monday and the remaining 115 will open on Friday.
Recreational activities will be limited to walking, hiking, biking and birdwatching, Ford said at a daily press conference at Queen’s Park.
Camping is not allowed and all facilities, playgrounds and beaches will remain closed. People are encouraged to practice physical distance and to stay within two meters of each other.
“I encourage people to go out and enjoy the outdoors, but please do it responsibly. Practice physical distance and follow the rules established by health care officials to stop the spread of this virus, “Ford said in a press release on Saturday.
All buildings and toilets, water faucets, backcountry campsites and covered accommodation will be closed. No group activity will be allowed.
Go to the park closest to you, urge the minister
Ontario Environment Minister Jeff Yurek said people should practice physical distance. He urged them to visit the parks closest to their homes instead of spending hours on the highway traveling.
Ontario Parks staff will be on hand to patrol and pick up the trash, he said, but people will have to assume their personal responsibility by standing two meters apart.
Visitors will have free access to all parks and conservation reserves until the end of the month.
For the next few weeks, Ontario Parks staff will take care of the maintenance of the green spaces to ensure that the recreational facilities are ready when they can reopen safely.
In a question and answer session at the press conference, Ford said Ontario Education Minister Stephen Lecce will announce next week whether or not the school year will be canceled.
Ontario reports lowest number of cases per week
The announcement came after Ontario announced on Saturday its lowest number of new COVID-19 cases of the week, with 346 new confirmed cases of the virus.
Meanwhile, government approved emergency ordinance authorizing voluntary redeployment of school board workers to hospitals, long-term care homes, retirement homes and women’s shelters during the COVID-19 pandemic .
The government says many group care facilities require staff such as care and maintenance workers.
“I encourage all available education workers to help if you can, because you can make a real difference in the lives of the poor,” Prime Minister Doug Ford said in a statement on Saturday.
Staff would continue to be employed on the school board, including their compensation and benefits. He would also be eligible for pandemic payment and provincial government emergency child care.
CUPE says it supports the emergency order. Many members are “available and willing to support vulnerable residents and their exhausted colleagues,” said Laura Walton, chair of the Council of Unions for CUPE Ontario School Board, on Saturday.
The union said guards, youth workers, psychologists, housekeeping staff, educational assistants, social workers, paraprofessionals, specialty teachers and food service workers came out during the pandemic to be seconded to other areas.
Province To Cover Day Care Costs
The government has also announced that it will help cover the operating costs of the daycares and waive license fees during the closings to keep them afloat. Child care providers are currently prohibited from charging parents if they are closed.
“We want child care spaces to exist,” Education Minister Stephen Lecce said on Saturday. “It is so important to bring parents and families back to the workforce.”
Lecce said funding will be provided on a case-by-case basis, but a specific amount has not been allocated to the initiative.
He said the funding will last for several months and will also help centers that were previously not eligible for government funding.
Lawyers for child care providers have been asking for some form of support since April.
Lecce urged child care providers to also apply for the federal government’s wage subsidy program.
Hardware stores may reopen on Saturday
Meanwhile, hardware and security supplies stores may reopen in Ontario today, as the province slowly reopens some businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The hardware store opening is the latest step in the government’s plan to slowly reopen Ontario businesses after garden centers and nurseries were allowed to open on Friday. Retail stores with street entrance may begin offering curb pickup on Monday.
The total number of cases in Ontario approaches 20,000
Daily figures for Saturday come after a Friday increase of 477 new cases. However, the number of daily cases was 300 times three times last week.
The growth rate of cases Saturday compared to Friday was only 1.8%, the lowest since March.
Ontario reported a total of 19,944 cases of COVID-19 on Saturday, with 72% of those cured.
The official number of deaths in Ontario is 1,599. However, data compiled from regional public health offices by CBC News puts the death toll at 1,649.
The province reported three more outbreaks in long-term care homes, for a total of 237.
We said SnowBIRDS not SNOW!
The Canadian Forces Snowbirds were forced to abort their scheduled flight from Trenton to Toronto on Saturday morning as part of their tribute to the Canadians who were fighting COVID-19. They encountered weather problems east of Toronto and had to turn around, the Snowbirds said in a tweet.