Skip to main content
The Globe and Mail
Support Quality Journalism.
The Globe and Mail
First Access to Latest
Investment News
Collection of curated
e-books and guides
Inform your decisions via
Globe Investor Tools
per week
for first 24 weeks

Enjoy unlimited digital access
Cancel Anytime
Enjoy Unlimited Digital Access
Get full access to
Just $1.99per week for the first 24weeks
Just $1.99per week for the first 24weeks
var select={root:".js-sub-pencil",control:".js-sub-pencil-control",open:"o-sub-pencil--open",closed:"o-sub-pencil--closed"},dom={},allowExpand=!0;function pencilInit(o){var e=arguments.length>1&&void 0!==arguments[1]&&arguments[1];select.root=o,dom.root=document.querySelector(select.root),dom.root&&(dom.control=document.querySelector(select.control),dom.control.addEventListener("click",onToggleClicked),setPanelState(e),window.addEventListener("scroll",onWindowScroll),dom.root.removeAttribute("hidden"))}function isPanelOpen(){return dom.root.classList.contains(}function setPanelState(o){dom.root.classList[o?"add":"remove"](,dom.root.classList[o?"remove":"add"](select.closed),dom.control.setAttribute("aria-expanded",o)}function onToggleClicked(){var l=!isPanelOpen();setPanelState(l)}function onWindowScroll(){window.requestAnimationFrame(function() {var l=isPanelOpen(),n=0===(document.body.scrollTop||document.documentElement.scrollTop);n||l||!allowExpand?n&&l&&(allowExpand=!0,setPanelState(!1)):(allowExpand=!1,setPanelState(!0))});}pencilInit(".js-sub-pencil",!1); // via darwin-bg var slideIndex = 0; carousel(); function carousel() { var i; var x = document.getElementsByClassName("subs_valueprop"); for (i = 0; i < x.length; i++) { x[i].style.display = "none"; } slideIndex++; if (slideIndex> x.length) { slideIndex = 1; } x[slideIndex - 1].style.display = "block"; setTimeout(carousel, 2500); } //

People walk, ride bikes and inline skate on Queen Elizabeth Drive in Ottawa, as it is closed to motor vehicle traffic to allow people to get outdoors while practising physical distancing during the COVID-19 pandemic, on May 3, 2020.

Justin Tang/The Canadian Press

After almost two months of being told to “stay at home,” it’s time for a new mantra.

As provinces start easing the restrictions, allowing everything from haircuts to golf games to school openings, we need to loosen the shackles on individuals, too.

“Please go outside” is the message we now need to hear to maintain our sanity and hope.

Story continues below advertisement

And “please go outside” is exactly what Bonnie Henry, B.C.’s soothingly sensible Provincial Health Officer, is now telling people to do.

Go outside, but respect physical distancing rules and, above all, don’t congregate.

Before people start complaining that officials are back-pedaling, let’s be clear about one thing: As the pandemic changes, so too must the public-health and political messaging.

The lockdown was appropriate, but never meant to be forever.

On May 7, join André Picard for an Instagram Live on reopening society after COVID-19

The “stay at home” rules were designed to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus within communities so hospitals would not be overwhelmed.

The horror show unfolding in long-term care homes notwithstanding, the approach is working. In most of the country, we are flattening the epidemic curve.

Of course, that’s not sufficient. We still have almost 1,500 new cases and 100 deaths daily in Canada – most in Quebec and Ontario, and in accursed institutional care.

Story continues below advertisement

As the pandemic curve flattens, the public needs to be rewarded for its sacrifices. We need to ease out of confinement with thoughtful deconfinement measures.

The best place to start is the safest, by easing restrictions on outdoor activity.

As Dr. Henry said: “The risk that somebody who is sick spreads this virus from coughing or sneezing outside and you walk by them very quickly, even when it is within six feet, that risk ... would be infinitesimally small.”

To date, 312 detailed studies have been published about clusters of coronavirus infections. There is not a single case of infection by casual contact outdoors.

Let children play. Let people walk. Let our elders get some fresh air. Get the community gardens blossoming. Extend the bubble a bit beyond individual households.

That doesn’t mean a free-for-all. “Don’t congregate” is the new golden rule.

Story continues below advertisement

Beyond that, the rules of physical distancing have to be coherent and consistent.

We can’t pretend that it’s perfectly safe for workers to toil elbow-to-elbow in meat packing plants while telling families they can’t picnic a few metres apart.

We can’t say it’s fine for kids to go back to school but it’s not okay for them to kick a soccer ball around.

We can’t say it’s okay for the those who breathe rarified air to hit the links, but it’s not okay for the hoi polloi to shoot hoops.

We can’t lock away seniors indefinitely – especially healthy seniors who are suffering terribly during the pandemic.

In our rush to get people back to work, we can’t embrace flagrant double standards.

Story continues below advertisement

The way to avoid congregations of people in parks and on streets is not to punish them for being out-and-about, it’s to create more space.

We need to close streets – partly or entirely – to give people more room to circulate safely, especially in large urban centres. We need to let people use parks to their full extent – enough of this “stay on the path or be fined” nonsense.

Above all, we need to trust the public. There is every indication that Canadians are following the rules, but we have to help them understand the changes.

We’re not going to police our way out of the pandemic.

What we’re going to have to do is create a new normal that allows us to live while minimizing disease transmission.

That will mean big changes, in everything from social norms to our physical environment.

Story continues below advertisement

It will take a lot more time and energy and patience to ease out of public-health restrictions than it took to impose them. And some may be reimposed if cases spike again.

As such, communicating clearly becomes more important than ever.

If we think figuring out if you can go to the park or not is complicated, wait until we start fashioning the new workplace rules.

Limiting the spread of viral disease is way more difficult in closed indoor spaces than open outdoor spaces. We should breathe easy while we can.

Keep your Opinions sharp and informed. Get the Opinion newsletter. Sign up today.

Your Globe

Build your personal news feed

  1. Follow topics and authors relevant to your reading interests.
  2. Check your Following feed daily, and never miss an article. Access your Following feed from your account menu at the top right corner of every page.

Follow the author of this article:

Follow topics related to this article:

View more suggestions in Following Read more about following topics and authors
Report an error Editorial code of conduct
Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff.

We aim to create a safe and valuable space for discussion and debate. That means:

  • Treat others as you wish to be treated
  • Criticize ideas, not people
  • Stay on topic
  • Avoid the use of toxic and offensive language
  • Flag bad behaviour

If you do not see your comment posted immediately, it is being reviewed by the moderation team and may appear shortly, generally within an hour.

We aim to have all comments reviewed in a timely manner.

Comments that violate our community guidelines will not be posted.

UPDATED: Read our community guidelines here

Discussion loading ...

To view this site properly, enable cookies in your browser. Read our privacy policy to learn more.
How to enable cookies