Physical distancing is a relatively new concept to most of us. Therefore, naturally, Ottawans have a lot of questions about what is and isn’t allowed, especially when it comes to going outside. Thankfully, the city's public health agency has got our back, and they’ve explained exactly what you can get in trouble for while social distancing in Ottawa.

Residents of the capital city have now been social distancing for exactly one month, and it’s not getting any easier! 

As the COVID-19 situation continues to develop, we’re being urged to continue to stay at home wherever possible, and only take absolutely essential trips outside.

Aside from grocery shopping, picking up medication, and helping in-need friends and relatives, the only outside activity that is also considered to be “essential” is getting some fresh air and exercising.

However, after the city closed park facilities and recreational areas last month, many people have been left confused about what they can — and can’t — do while outside.

Luckily, Ottawa Public Health (OPH) is on the case, and they’ve explained exactly what is prohibited when it comes to parks, walks and outdoor social activities.

If you thought it was ok to kick a ball around in the park, sit on a public bench, stop for a chat with a friend, or throw a ball for your dog — think again!

All of these activities are currently prohibited, explains OPH, with absolutely “no exceptions.”

In a statement on April 15, OPH explained that the closure of the city’s parks includes, “all amenities and equipment such as swings, courts, skateboard ramps, off-leash dog enclosures, benches and picnic tables, ball diamonds and sports fields.”

While the City allows locals to walk, run, or ride bikes through the park, pretty much everything else is a no-go.

For example, OPH states that “you cannot linger around the park, use any equipment or sit on a bench. No prolonged stays and no gatherings – even for a simple chat.”

The health agency also adds that kicking a ball around with a family member, having a picnic, using public benches, throwing a ball for your dog, or “lingering” in any areas with a friend, dog, or even alone, is not permitted.

“There are no exceptions to the rule, no matter how simple or harmless it appears,” the statement adds.

The reason for these rules, OPH explains, is because parks are “natural attractions” for people to gather in groups, an act which has been prohibited by the Ontario government.

“What could happen is two more people show up, followed by a few more parents and kids. Before you know it, you have a group of people in the park,” the statement reads.

Additionally, park equipment is not cleaned or sanitized. As COVID-19 can be present on any surface and remain there for days, using park facilities could put you at risk.

If you’re caught doing any of the above, be prepared to face a pretty hefty fine. Penalties for failing to follow social distancing rules could cost you up to $880, including victim surcharges.

Next time you head to a city park or public place, make sure you know the rules. It's an expensive mistake if you get it wrong!

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