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All provincial parks in Ontario have just been ordered closed

One of Ontario’s greatest assets — it’s sprawling network of massive, protected provincial parks — has been taken off the table in terms of comforts we humans can enjoy in these lonely, isolated times.

The province’s Ministry of Environment, Conservation and Parks announced on Wednesday night that it has decided to close off all 45 of its official parks to protect both staff and visitors amid the mounting coronavirus pandemic.

Park closures are scheduled to take effect today and will last until at least April 30, 2020. All existing campground reservations impacted by the closure will be cancelled immediately, and refunds will be issued without penalty.

“As COVID-19 continues to quickly evolve, we want to ensure public safety and the well-being of our visitors and staff in Ontario’s provincial parks,” reads a release from the provincial government issued Wednesday night.

“In order to assist the province with its efforts to keep Ontarians safe during this time, all provincial parks will be closed to the public from March 19, 2020 until April 30, 2020. This includes car camping, backcountry camping, roofed accommodations, day use opportunities and all public buildings.”

Ministry spokesperson Andrew Buttigieg said in a statement on Wednesday that park entrances will be gated, where possible, and all buildings will be locked. Signs will be posted at park entrances to notify members of the public.

Anyone who is currently camping within an Ontario Provincial Park is being asked to leave by Thursday.

“We understand that spending time in nature is important for the health and well-being of Ontarians,” said Buttigieg, per the Canadian Press.

“However, in order to assist the province to further efforts in keeping employees and Ontarians safe during this time, the ministry made the decision to close provincial parks to the public.”

As of March 18 at 5:30 p.m., Ontario’s Ministry of Health was reporting 214 confirmed cases of COVID-19 through its dedicated outbreak website. Five of those patients have already recovered and one has died.

The province remains under a state of emergency, as declared by Premier Doug Ford on Tuesday morning, in an effort to help public health officials slow the epidemic curve of the 2019 novel coronavirus and save what could amount to hundreds of thousands of lives.  

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