TORONTO -- To curb the spread of COVID-19, officials across Canada have been telling the public to stay at least two metres away from each other and have implemented various measures including the closure of local parks and playgrounds. 

In Vancouver, playgrounds are taped off with caution tape to keep children from playing on the structures.

For a while, playgrounds in Toronto remained open with reminders in place for the public to keep a safe distance. But on Wednesday, city officials implemented new measures, announcing the closure of all parks and playgrounds in an effort to slow the spread of the virus.

The rules may differ from province to province, but a Canadian doctor is urging parents not to take any risks and avoid all playgrounds amid the health crisis to keep children safe.  

“I think the next two to three weeks are super critical in our response to trying to control this pandemic,” Dr. Mike Dickinson, a pediatrician in Miramichi, N.B., told in a phone interview on Monday. “If there is ever a time for strict social distancing and isolation, the time is now.” 

Dickinson, who is a former president of the Canadian Pediatric Society, recognizes that this will be a challenging time for families, especially for those who live in downtown apartment buildings with limited outdoor options. Despite the difficult circumstances, he still advises kids to stay away from playgrounds. 

“We still have a lot to learn about this particular virus, but we do know that it is stable on surfaces like steel and plastic,” Dickinson said. “Even if your child is the only one on the playground, there is still risk of transmission because we don’t know who was there before.” 

Families who live in rural areas in Canada will have more flexibility when it comes to being outdoors and still limiting human contact. 

“For those who are lucky enough to have an enclosed backyard, there’s no harm in going out and using that,” Dickinson said. “If there’s a wooded area or a park area where you know you’ll be the only people there or can create out your own space, I don’t think there’s a problem with that.” 

He stressed that “you want to be relatively self isolated, even in an outdoor environment.” 

Over the weekend, officials in Quebec, British Columbia, Halifax and Calgary announced the closures of public parks in an effort to minimize public gatherings. 

The City of Barrie announced on Monday that playground equipment and waterfront fitness equipment are closed effective immediately. 

On Tuesday, the City of London announced the closure of playgrounds, skate parks and multi-use courts.  

Public health officials have been telling people to keep at least two metres of distance between themselves and others when out in public. On Monday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau told the public that “enough is enough” and that physical distancing measures are a must. 

“If you choose to ignore that advice you’re not just putting yourself at risk, you’re putting others at risk,” Trudeau said in a press conference outside Rideau Cottage. “Enough is enough. Go home and stay home. This is what we all need to be doing and we’re going to make sure this happens.”

In his coronavirus briefing on Sunday, Trudeau thanked children directly for staying home and practicing social distancing. 

"Your playgrounds and schools have closed and your March Break was certainly different than what you had hoped for," he said. “I get it from my kids as well. They’re watching a whole lot more movies, but they miss their friends, and at the same time, they’re worried about what their future may hold.”

For many families, Dickinson said the changes they’re forced to implement amid the COVID-19 outbreak will cause a significant disruption to daily routines. 

“We have a lot of kids who are high energy and normally would be involved in swimming lessons or hockey or taekwondo. And not only are they missing the social contacts, but they’re missing the physical activity as well,” he said.

“There’s no question this will be a stressful time for children so I think parents need to be sensitive and realize that your kids may require a little bit more TLC through these difficult times,” he advises.