Ontario government backtracks and allows high-contact sports after back-to-school guidance released

WATCH ABOVE: Ontario Education Minister Stephen Lecce announced the back-to-school plan had been updated to allow for high-contact sports indoors after approval from the province's chief medical officer of health, Dr. Kieran Moore.

Just a day after the Ontario government released COVID-19 guidance for all schools and school boards in the province that will see students return for in-person classes, officials have backtracked on high-contact sports indoors and cleared the way for a resumption of those activities.

During an announcement on providing funding for air filtration devices in Ontario classrooms, Education Minister Stephen Lecce said Ontario’s chief medical officer of health, Dr. Kieran Moore, has now approved high-contact sports indoors based on “discussions” over the past 24 hours.

“I wanted to provide that update to families today, especially those within the sports community and those in competitions who are looking forward to getting back to their activities both indoors and outdoors within our schools and we think this will really help restore that positive learning experience for the physical and mental health of children,” he told reporters.

Read more:

Ontario government releases guidance for return of in-person classes at province’s schools

The strategy released on Tuesday called for increased cleaning of high-touch surfaces, including sports equipment. When it came to inter-school sports, the document originally said high-contact sports would only be allowed outdoors. The 29-page plan noted masking wouldn’t be required for outdoor settings.

With respect to indoor activities, the document said low-contact ones would only be allowed.

“Masking is encouraged but not required indoors for low-contact physical activities if a minimum distance of two metres can be maintained between individuals who are not part of the same classroom cohort,” the plan released on Tuesday said.

“Indoor low contact activities are still permitted if distancing cannot be maintained, but masking would then be required. Further guidance on health and physical education will be shared with school boards.”

READ MORE: Ontario’s back-to-school plan encouraging, but lacks vaccine policy, experts say

For his part, Moore said the initial decision meant sports like hockey and basketball wouldn’t be allowed indoors. He said officials “sought feedback” from local public health units and various sports associations.

“We think with the combination of screening, having rapid access to testing if anyone develops any symptoms, high vaccination rates in our communities and hand hygiene etc., all the basic protocols that we want to have in place to have our schools safe that it is reasonable to be able to allow basketball to continue as well as hockey. All the major mandates will be in place to protect children that are participating in sports,” Moore said, reiterating the sports would have been allowed within a cohort.

“It’s a risk-reduction strategy. There’s never a complete risk elimination, but we think it’s prudent, we think it’s reasonable and we certainly want our children to be able to participate in those sports.”

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