We'll have to adhere to COVID-19 measures for a while yet
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We’ll have to adhere to COVID-19 measures for a while yet

Any thoughts about measures to stem the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic being short-lived came to a halt this week, as the province extended its emergency measures through April, at least.

On Monday, Premier Doug Ford extended the declaration of emergency and associated emergency measures, including the closure of non-essential workplaces and restrictions on social gatherings. The province also issued a new emergency order under the Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act to close all outdoor recreational amenities, such as sports fields and playgrounds, effective immediately.

This new order closes all communal or shared, public or private, outdoor recreational amenities everywhere in Ontario, including playgrounds, sports fields, off-leash dog parks and other outdoor recreational amenities. Green spaces in parks, trails, ravines and conservation areas that aren’t otherwise closed would remain open for walkthrough access, but individuals must maintain the safe physical distance of at least two metres apart from others. Ontario’s provincial parks and conservation reserves remain closed, as do GRCA and municipal facilities.

The new pronouncements also mean public schools will remain closed to teachers until at least May 1 and to students until May 4, though those dates are subject to change, just as the original target of April 6 was extended.

Private schools, licensed child care centres and EarlyON programs will also remain closed until April 13, according to the declaration of emergency, which only allows closures to be extended for one 14-day period at a time.

The provincial government has said it intends to protect the school year of students, and to provide financial aid to postsecondary students, looking to ease the pain of the coronavirus-induced shutdown.

All of these onerous measures are being undertaken on the advice of public health officials, who have the public’s trust. Unlike other jurisdictions, the crisis has remained apolitical in Ontario, and indeed across Canada.

Public goodwill towards the health-care officials at the center of the battle remains strong, which is essential as the shutdown drags on and the economic impacts become more acute. The more difficult life becomes for large numbers of citizens, the harder it will be to counter the dissatisfaction. That will be even more the case if the medical system becomes overwhelmed, increasing the fear factor that’s already at play.

The public is to be commended for taking most of the preventative measures to heart. We are staying at home, though that often comes at a great personal economic cost. We are generally adhering to social-distancing guidelines when we do go out. And we have remained civil through all of this, though it’s comparatively early days.

Even as we’re told to withdraw from our usual routines – to be anti-social, as it were – we’re perhaps exhibiting more social behaviour, a reflection of the ubiquitous “we’re in this together” sentiment.

There’s also something of an irony in all of this, as we’ve in some ways become less social over the years even as the population grows and living arrangement become more crowded – an ideal trend for a pandemic, unfortunately. Even as we become more crowded, we’re living more isolated lives. People used to socialize and communicate more often with people in their communities. We were more involved. Today, however, we’re more likely to spend time alone in front of the television or, increasingly, in front of the computer, where online “social” networking has displaced real human interactions. Without strong social connections, we’re more likely to be rude to each other, but we’ve been avoiding that just now.

Given this week’s reassessment of the situation, we’re going to have to remain on our best behaviour for a while yet.

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