Outdoor rinks can reopen in Montreal, but no hockey allowed, says public health director

Montreal’s public health director says the city has the green light to reopen outdoor rinks despite the COVID-19 pandemic restrictions — but hockey games, a favourite Montreal pastime, won’t be allowed.

Dr. Mylène Drouin said outdoor rinks can reopen since physical activity has benefits for physical and mental health. 

“There will be free skating. Obviously, there will be no hockey games,” Drouin said on Radio-Canada’s Tout un matin Wednesday morning, without specifying who would be responsible for checking that people comply with the rule.

Drouin added that individual training or practising will “probably” occur on the city’s outdoor rinks. 

About two weeks ago, Montreal Mayor Valérie Plante said the city was waiting for a green light from public health before announcing that outdoor rinks would reopen. 

At the time, Drouin pointed out there had been many outbreaks of COVID-19 related to contact sports and that the population should find activities that limit contact. 

“Hockey games on outdoor rinks are normally non-contact, but contacts are nonetheless inevitable,” Drouin said. 

On Wednesday, she said she wants to encourage Montrealers to do physical activity outdoors, where the risk of transmission is much lower when playing sports than indoors, where ventilation is sometimes poor. 

“We will try to create, with the city and our partners, more opportunities to play sports outside,” Drouin said. 

She pointed out that several municipal sports centres remain open for certain activities, and swimming pools remain open despite the fact that Montreal is in a COVID-19 red alert zone. 

Montreal COVID-19 cases on 3-week plateau

The number of cases in Montreal has been on a plateau for two or three weeks, with an average of about 250 cases per day, Drouin said. 

But the virus reproduction rate (Rt), which measures the number of infections attributable to one infected person, has risen to very close to one — the threshold authorities want to avoid — after falling last week. 

Drouin asked Montrealers to continue physical distancing efforts so that community transmission of the virus decreases. 

“The next two weeks are crucial enough to allow us, if we remain in the red for a while, to perhaps adjust the measures in place,” Drouin said. “Ideally, after two weeks, we would like to have either the maintenance of the plateau, or a slight decrease.”

The Montreal neighbourhoods of Parc-Extension, Côte-des-Neiges, Saint-Laurent and Outremont are those currently most affected by the pandemic, Drouin said. There are about 250 active outbreaks in Montreal, about 15 of which are in schools. 

“Often, we manage the outbreak in one class, and it reappears in a new class. This is really a sign of a community transmission entering school,” Drouin said.  “In the workplace, the majority of our outbreaks, almost 90 per cent of them, are small outbreaks with fewer than 10 employees.”

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