City of Parksville has closed down all of its playgrounds effective immediately. (File photo)

Saanich, Parksville say playgrounds off-limits due to COVID-19 concerns

Move follows directive from provincial health officer, concerns about social distancing

Children in Parksville and Saanich who enjoy their community playgrounds will have to find other ways to pass the time.

Effective immediately and until further notice, all playgrounds in these two Island communities are closed.

In a press release, Parksville officials said they decided to take this ‘drastic’ move to help stop the spread of COVID-19, protect residents and encourage social distancing the community.

Similarly, Saanich made the decision to close the playgrounds “in response to public concerns that some playground users are not practicing social distancing as directed by B.C.’s provincial health officer,” explained Megan Catalano, information officer for the Saanich Emergency Operations Centre, in a written statement.

The Town of Qualicum Beach is not currently closing down any of its playgrounds but it continues to advise people to be extremely cautious on being in places where the virus can spread and to avoid them.

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry recently issued clear directives that parents should not be taking their children to playgrounds, as health officials continue to emphasize the importance of social distancing to curb the spread of COVID-19.

READ MORE: COVID-19: Keeping their distance will help keep your kids healthy

READ MORE: Comprehensive coronavirus coverage here

“If there is a group of kids all mingling together on a playground that’s not what we need right now,” said Henry. “We need it to be in a controlled environment. Parents should not be letting children go and have playdates and go to playgrounds with other groups of children, because we know that they can transmit this virus and then they bring it home to you and they bring it home to your family.”

Parksville’s press release noted “the City of Parksville wish the public to know the decision was not made lightly as it knows children want to get out and play. Parents are advised to consider creating other family outdoor adventures that will keep you everyone safe and limit exposure to the virus. Appropriate signage will be posted at playgrounds as soon as possible.”

Social distancing includes remaining at least two metres – about the length of a queen-sized bed – away from others while out of the home even if you’re not ill, Catalano said.

Social distancing can be practiced by limiting outdoor activities, avoiding large social gatherings and practicing proper cough etiquette and handwashing. Saanich is asking parents to explain social distancing to their children and enforce the guidelines.

Saanich Mayor Fred Haynes is encouraging residents to get outside and enjoy the spring weather from a safe distance in the District’s many parks that feature open spaces and trails.

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