By ALAN SHACKLETON
Beaches-East York Councillor Brad Bradford says the City of Toronto does not want to take a heavy-handed approach to forcing people to keep their distance while in public spaces outdoors during the COVID-19 crisis, but if people continue to ignore health warnings to do so that might have to happen.
In a statement sent to Beach Metro News late Tuesday (March 24) afternoon, Bradford said he was “concerned” to have seen images last weekend from the East Toronto beaches and along the Boardwalk of many groups of people ignoring the physical (social) distancing warnings to keep two-metres apart at all times.
“Those images are concerning not because people are out, but because they weren’t keeping a safe distance and following the professional medical advice,” he said in the statement.
The issue of people crowding public spaces and ignoring physical distancing advice was seen in countries around the world last weekend, leading to angry reactions on social media and the use of the term COVIDIOTS to describe those who are putting their safety and the safety of others at risk.
On Monday, March 23, the City of Toronto declared a State of Emergency as it attempts to limit the spread of the COVID-19 virus. Also on Monday, the Province of Ontario ordered the closure of all non-essential businesses for the same reason.
Bradford said those actions should be clear indications of how dangerous a situation we are facing in the fight against the virus, and how important it is that advice is being followed regarding safety measures.
“That declaration was another reminder that we need to be taking physical distancing seriously,” he said.
Information on how fast the virus is spreading in Toronto, Ontario and Canada is changing on a daily basis but as of now the numbers are increasing.
Bradford said that as of now it is still OK for people who are healthy or are not supposed to be in self-isolation due to having arrived from a foreign country recently to be outside. “The advice is changing hour by hour, but right now it’s still OK… It’s good for our physical and mental health to get outdoors occasionally. But, we have to keep our distance, stay with your immediate household, and not meet others, especially in groups.”
At this time, the City of Toronto is not considering shutting down parks and trails. However, there are signs at playgrounds warning that the equipment is not cleaned, and that safe distances and proper hygiene measures must be kept. In some Canadian cities, including Vancouver, playground structures in municipal parks have been taped off to prevent children from playing on them.
“New signage went out this week encouraging residents to make sure their children stay safe on playground equipment, especially in terms of keeping distance from other children and making sure to wash hands and faces to stop the spread,” said Bradford. “It’s hard with young children especially and I really appreciate all the parents doing their part to keep themselves and others safe.”
Bradford said the distancing and safety messages have to be followed by everyone. “We have to take the virus seriously but we don’t want to force a full lock down if we can get the message through. Most people are getting it but too many are still ignoring the advice,” he said.
“We want to strongly encourage people to follow the advice before taking a more heavy-handed, enforcement-based approach. That’s why you’re seeing so many public figures and the media involved in this making repeated pleas for everyone to practice physical distancing, self-isolate when needed, and stay informed about the latest advice.”
As mentioned, Bradford said the information on COVID-19 and the fight against it is changing rapidly. To help residents stay informed, he has set up “a clearing-house style resource’” on his website at bradbardford.ca/covid19
Bradford is also sending out regular, community-focused updates by email to help keep residents informed.