Hamilton-Niagara sports fields, playgrounds off-limits on Easter weekend amid COVID-19 crisis

The Easter long weekend is expected to be quiet in Hamilton, Burlington and Niagara Region in light of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, according to city leaders.

Despite Premier Doug Ford deeming the Easter Bunny an essential service amid the novel coronavirus outbreak, local governments and regional health-care experts say that’s not a reason to abandon social-distancing bylaws during the holiday.

Municipalities in all the regions have closed recreation centres, civic museums, public libraries, senior centres, arenas, golf courses, and other outdoor amenities.

During Hamilton’s town hall on Wednesday night, police chief Eric Girt said under the provincial state of emergency declaration Easter is going to look “very different” with gatherings of more than five people prohibited – including family gatherings.

“It does include private residences.”

“So residents who are organizing or attending gatherings of more than five people may be charged under the Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act, and it carries a fine starting at $750,” said Girt.

Meanwhile, emergency operations centre (EOC) director Paul Johnson reiterated that neighbourhood parks are open in the city and it’s okay to walk through them, but their amenities are closed.

In a release on Wednesday, the city reminded the public that all city-run programming is closed in addition to play structures, escarpment stairs, park amenities, sports fields, city golf courses, dog parks, skate parks, the Bayfront Park boat launch, waterfall locations, and several parking lots in high traffic areas in the city.

“Don’t play baseball. You can’t play tennis,’ said Johnson.

“Even the picnic benches and the park benches — Not to be used.”

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“But in terms of walking, rolling, riding, if those amenities are available in a park, it’s absolutely fine to go through.”

On Wednesday, Hamilton city council passed a physical distancing by-law which prohibits certain activities and regulates physical distancing during the COVID-19 pandemic. Bylaw officers now have the power to fine individuals between $500 for a first offence, up to $25,000 for serious or repeat offences.

Here’s a list of what’s operating as well as open and closed across municipalities in southeastern Ontario:

Hamilton

Green bin, garbage and recycling:

Niagara Region

All outdoor recreational amenities, including parks, playgrounds, beaches and sports fields are closed in the region.

Niagara transit will be running on a holiday schedule for Good Friday. There will be regular ‘weekend’ service for Monday which has now been reduced to a Saturday schedule due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Shopping

As part of emergency orders issued from the province of Ontario, non-essential stores are closed. Here’s what will and will not be operational during the long weekend.

Canada Post: Outlets will be closed on Friday and Monday.

Grocery stores: Major grocery stores like Fortinos, Metro, Fresh Co. and No Frills will be closed on Friday and Sunday.

Hamilton Farmers’ Market Hours: open on Saturday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. but closed on Friday, Sunday and Monday.

Shoppers Drug Mart: Many locations will be open on Friday, Sunday and Monday, but not all. Good Friday and Easter Sunday hours can be seen on the Shoppers store locator map.

Malls: All major shopping centres in Hamilton, Burlington, St. Catharines and Niagara Falls are closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Some essential services may be open on Monday.

Walmart: Walmarts will be closed on Friday, except Niagara Falls Supercentre which will be open on Good Friday from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. and Easter Sunday from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.

The Beer Store: All stores are closed on Good Friday and Easter Sunday. Some stores will be open on Easter Monday.

LCBO: All stores are closed on Good Friday, Easter Sunday, and Easter Monday.

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