With the weather warming up, more and more Manitobans may be tempted to visit parks and public spaces, but experts say this could put them at risk of contracting COVID-19.
“If you’re getting out to a park and you notice there are crowds starting you need to turn back,” Chief Provincial Public Health Officer Dr. Brent Roussin said.
“Getting out, getting some exercise in is certainly important. We need to take care of ourselves during this time, we have to not be socially isolated, reaching out to others and keeping in touch.”
On the weekend, parking lots were busy at Winnipeg parks such as St. Vital Park, Assiniboine Park and Birds Hill Park.
Groups of people could be seen gathering together – some experts saying they were not practising social distancing.
On Monday, the province limited the maximum number of people in a public gathering to 10.
“It’s the groups of 10 within that close contact that we are concerned about,” Roussin said.
“This is not the time to ignore social distancing strategies. You have to maintain two metres between other folks. We have to keep ourselves healthy but right now is that time – strict adherence to social distancing strategies.”
Premier Brian Pallister said people need to do their part to save the lives of themselves and other Manitobans by maintaining physical distance from others.
“I think it allows me to highlight the importance of all of us working together to educate one another on these measures. To make sure that we are encouraging people all the time to remember, old habits die hard,” he said.
The federal government has closed all national parks, Pallister says right now that isn’t the plan.
“We don’t want to close down all parks, playgrounds and outdoor areas because people have already told me they’re getting cabin fever and would like to get outside.”
Kevin Coombs, professor of medical microbiology at the University of Manitoba, says limiting the spread of the virus is very challenging.
“In order to completely protect ourselves, we would all have to go into a bubble and there would be no social interaction. From a practical point a view that probably doesn’t work,” he said.
“We should also avoid very large groups of people because of course the larger the group, the greater the chance that at least one person in that group may be affected.”
Coombs says part of the problem is that measures will have to continue for months.
“A lot of us tend to think, ‘oh I hear these horrible stories, but it won’t be me.’ That’s just human nature. So when the weather warms up and people are going well nothing has happened yet, it won’t happen to me,” he said.
“I think it’s a natural thing that people are going to start to congregate. It’s up to each of us to know this is an ongoing problem.”