Following backlash, Ontario says COVID lockdown will not include police stops, playground closures

"There are few options left," premier claimed before backing down.

Updated: April 17, 2021 - 7:16pm

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The Ontario, Canada government on Saturday backed off of imposing several harsh new measures meant to counteract an uptick in positive COVID-19 tests there, rules that would have added to already widespread closures of schools, restaurants and numerous other institutions.

Premier Doug Ford’s government announced this week an extension to the province’s four-week stay-at-home order to six weeks. The government promised to shut down "non-essential" construction sites, close playgrounds and golf courses, and order facilities such as grocery stores to only allow 25% of their normal capacity in at one time. Police were also to be empowered to stop vehicles and ask citizens why they were leaving their homes

"The reality is there are few options left," Ford claimed on Friday, conceding that "every public health measure we have left comes with a massive cost to people."

Yet following backlash to the proposals, Ford's government said it would back off the playground closures and new police powers. 

"Ontario’s enhanced restrictions were always intended to stop large gatherings where spread can happen," Ford said on Saturday. "Our regulations will be amended to allow playgrounds, but gatherings outside will still be enforced."

Solicitor General Sylvia Jones, meanwhile, announced on Saturday evening that police would no longer be permitted to stop citizens solely to question them on their reason for leaving home; police would still be empowered, however, to stop those they believed were engaging in public gatherings. 

The Ontario government says it most recently recorded just over 4,300 cases in one day.

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