Coronavirus: Ontario opening provincial parks for day use as of May 11, almost 3 weeks early

WATCH ABOVE: During a COVID-19 update on Saturday, Ontario Premier Doug Ford announced that as of May 11, the province will begin opening provincial parks and conservation reserves for limited day-use. He said they would be open for activities including hiking and biking, but that access to camping, playgrounds and beaches would continue to remain closed.

The Ontario government will begin to allow access to its provincial parks for day-use activities on Monday, almost three weeks earlier than previously announced.

Access will be limited to walking, hiking, biking, and bird watching, the government said. Camping and access to beaches will remain closed.

Visitors will have free access to the parks until the end of the month.

“As we continue to make progress in our fight to stop the spread of COVID-19, we are carefully and cautiously reopening the province, starting with certain businesses and retailers, and now our provincial parks and conservation reserves,” Premier Doug Ford said in a statement Saturday.

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“I encourage people to get out and enjoy the outdoors, but please do so in a responsible way. Practise physical distancing and follow the rules set out by health-care officials to stop the spread of this virus.”

On Monday, 520 parks and conservation areas will open and an additional 115 will open on Friday.

The government previously said provincial parks would remain fully closed until the end of May.

All buildings and facilities will still be closed, including playgrounds, roofed accommodations, water taps, and washrooms.

Environment Minister Jeff Yurek said visitors should come prepared with necessities including water and hand sanitizer.

The government said Ontario Parks staff will be working to prepare other accommodations in the parks so they can open “when it is safe to do so.”

Ontario reported 346 new cases of the novel coronavirus Saturday morning, marking the lowest increase in over a month.

Fifty-nine new deaths were also reported.

© 2020 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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