Quebec will allow non-contact sports like tennis and golf to resume
Physical-distancing rules must still be respected, travel to other regions discouraged
Quebec will soon allow people to resume playing some non-contact sports, such as tennis, golf, cycling, track and field, fishing and boating.
The resumption of those activities will be phased in beginning May 20, Isabelle Charest, Quebec's junior education minister, said Wednesday.
The province's main criteria for allowing a sport or activity is whether or not physical distancing is possible.
If people can't stay two metres apart while playing, the sport won't be allowed anytime soon, Charest said, as "these are standards and rules that public health was comfortable with."
Scuba diving, horseback riding, climbing, individual water sports, skateboarding and in-line skating are also on the list of permitted activities. Most team sports, like hockey and soccer, will not be allowed for now.
The changes apply to all of Quebec, including the greater Montreal area, although everyone must continue to respect the public health guidelines while playing, and people will be expected to stay in their region rather than travel to other parts of the province.
Charest said she understands that people will miss team sports, and the province is looking at ways to allow modified versions of these activities while gradually broadening the list of permitted sports.
It may be possible for some teams to resume individual training regimes, she said, but most team competitions are impossible for now, and there is no way to have an audience watching from the bleachers.
"We are looking for alternatives — different ways of doing things," said Dr. Richard Massé, a provincial senior public health adviser.
He said sports and outdoor activities are "very important for people's health, their mental health as well as physical health," and that is why the province is looking closely at each activity to determine if they can be allowed and what sanitary measures need to be in place for them to happen safely.
"The objective remains that all Quebecers must remain safe," said Charest. "The risks, we know, are lower when we practise sports outside."
Pools, maybe. Tennis, singles only
Charest said the province is working closely with sports organizations, municipalities and public health officials to determine which activities will be allowed as the summer progresses.
Some non-contact team sports, like baseball, may eventually be allowed with certain restrictions, she said.
Outdoor pools may eventually be opened, Massé said, as the chlorination of water kills the coronavirus. However, maintaining physical distancing in the pools remains a challenge, especially at indoor pools.
The rules for each allowed activity will be made available in guides published by the province. For example, doubles tennis won't be allowed, but groups of four can play golf together.
Charest encouraged Quebecers to try a new activity this summer if their favourite isn't allowed.
Changes to the rules of golf
Once golf courses finally do open, the trip to the course will be different, as there will be no grabbing a beer at the bar or sitting down for a post-game meal.
Last week, the Quebec Golf Course Association, in conjunction with industry partners, submitted a document to government officials outlining what safety procedures they'd implement if they were allowed to reopen.
The regulations, which are similar to what other provinces are already applying, include having golfers wait in their cars until a few minutes before they tee off, and forbidding touching the flagpole or the cup.
Also, two golfers will be allowed in a cart only if they share the same address, or if the cart has a physical barrier between the two seats.
Massé said people must stay in their own region. Montrealers, for example, should only play golf on a course on the island, rather than heading out to Bromont or other larger courses outside of the city, he said.
Golf courses open elsewhere
Other provinces have already allowed golf courses to reopen.
Golfers started teeing off in New Brunswick on April 25, and parks and beaches are also open in that province.
However, unfortunately for golf and beach lovers in the rest of Canada, New Brunswick plans to keep its provincial borders closed for the entire summer.