LONDON, ONT. —
The Middlesex-London Health Unit has modified new rules announced on Wednesday to prevent the spread of COVID-19, which will allow many sports to continue.
“We want to make sure these sports can continue as much as possible,” said Medical Officer of Health Dr. Chris Mackie.
Fears were rampant throughout the sports community that the strict safety measures would sideline sports and potentially put some recreation facilities out of business.
“What’s become clear is that we need to tweak them so that we don’t disrupt sport,” Mackie said.
The revisions were shared during a virtual townhall meeting Friday afternoon for sports, recreation and fitness facility stakeholders.
“If we want to stay in a situation where we can continue to have team sports, we need to take action to prevent the spread,” Mackie said.
Among the adjustments to the Section 22 Class Order for Indoor Fitness Facilities, the total number of people permitted in a class at a facility cannot exceed 12. The maximum number of people allowed on a field of play, such as an ice pad or soccer field, is 25. For team sports with substitutions, a maximum of 12 people are allowed on the roster, and player waiting on the sidelines must maintain a two metre distance from one another.
Mackie says no contact is allowed between individuals during any play and that means there will be zero tolerance for any touching.
“When you are that close, you are entering a high-risk situation. It doesn’t matter if that’s a normal part of your sport, there’s no contact.”
Parents, athletes, coaches and owners of numerous sports facilities are expressing some relief.
“It’s definitely a positive move,” said the VP of Hockey Operations for The London Junior Knights, Kevin Gardner.
“We can work with it,” he said.
However, there is still some uncertainty about how the rules will be implemented and how they will play out on the ice. Still, Gardner says he’s pleased that the health unit has listened to the community’s concerns.
“It was a groundswell of all sports in the community that made the change, and the health unit listened, so that’s great.”
The Junior Knights have ice time scheduled for this Saturday and plan to implement the new rules.
“We want to follow the rules. We don’t want anyone to get sick,” said Gardner. But the unexpected changes, with no notice, came as a huge shock.
“That’s what upset everyone.”
Hundreds of stakeholders of indoor sports and recreation facilities, including volleyball, soccer, and gymnastics associations, as well as health clubs and yoga studios, took part in the town hall with health officials answering questions about how the new rules will impact them.
The health unit’s revised restrictions on gyms come after more than 70 people tested positive at a fitness studio in Hamilton. Officials say the studio was following all public health guidelines when the outbreak occurred.
Mackie says the orders are meant to avoid a situation where there are gaps in the rules