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Coronavirus: Many West Island playgrounds close as preventive measure

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With children out of school due to the spread COVID-19 in the province, many are wondering if playgrounds should be added to the list of public spaces forced to close. As Global's Olivia O'Malley reports, some parts of the city have already decided to do so – Mar 21, 2020

As a preventative measure against the novel coronavirus, many West Island municipalities have made the decision to close children’s playgrounds.

Yellow caution tape reading “danger” is wrapped around Pointe-Claire play structures, preventing children from using the equipment.

Playgrounds are also closed in Baie-D’Urfé, Dollard-des-Ormeaux, Kirkland and Notre-Dame-de-l’Île-Perrot.

Meanwhile, in Beaconsfield and Dorval, officials are advising families against visiting playgrounds.

COVID-19 information signs are posted on poles at all Beaconsfield parks.

Asking users to not enter the premises if they are experiencing symptoms such as coughing, fever, difficulty breathing or if they have returned from a trip abroad.

READ MORE: Coronavirus: Quebec deaths climb to 5, cases rise to 181

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While structures are still accessible in Beaconsfield, Mayor Georges Bourelle is asking families to stay home.

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He worries children may catch the novel coronavirus from a park playdate and pass it on to more vulnerable grandparents.

“Once you have a group of kids in a park, they’re going to hug each other, they’re going to get close together, and that’s the danger,” he said.

Beaconsfield has also chosen to not prepare soccer fields or tennis courts for the spring season.

The decision to close playgrounds was made independently. Quebec officials have not ordered their closure, but remind families to keep their distance if they choose to go outdoors.

“We need to get out to take some fresh air,” said public health director Horacio Arruda. “But just try to keep in different families, distancing from each other in the park.”

READ MORE: Côte Saint-Luc urging public to take precautions after COVID-19 cases confirmed in community

Health professionals warn, however, that social distancing may not be enough.

They say when the coronavirus is on shiny surfaces like steel or plastic, materials commonly found at playgrounds, it can last 72 hours.

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“So you think, great, there’s good social distancing and all of this. But actually, in reality, there could still be virus sort of hanging around,” said Simon Bacon, Behavioural Medicine FRQUS chair and Concordia professor.

With playgrounds closed, Pointe-Claire Mayor John Belvedere doesn’t mean families shouldn’t go outside at all.

“We want you outside, we want you in the parks, we want you just to keep your distance from each other and get outside and get some fresh air,” Belvedere said.

While Belvedere and Bourelle agree the situation is difficult for families, they say everyone needs to be responsible in order for kids to return to the swing set soon.