Local health units to require proof of vaccination at recreational facilities

In an effort to prevent the spread of COVID-19, three local health units in the region have announced that proof of vaccination will be required for those 12 and older to enter indoor sport and recreation facilities.

During a virtual media briefing on Wednesday, the medical officers of health for London-Middlesex, Elgin-Oxford, and Huron-Perth introduced the new policy which will take effect October 31. Individuals planning to participate in, coach, officiate, or watch organized sports or recreational fitness programs this fall and winter will need to have both doses of the COVID-19 vaccine first.

“These additional protective measures will make it safer for everyone entering a facility for organized sports, whether to play, practice, coach, volunteer, or watch,” explained Huron-Perth Medical Officer Dr. Miriam Klassen.

Health officials in the region said new cases of COVID-19 continue to be reported, particularly among unvaccinated people, including those under the age of 12 who are not yet eligible to receive the vaccine.

“Sports activities by their nature create additional opportunities for the COVID virus to spread,” said Dr. Chris Mackie, Medical Officer of Health for the Middlesex London Health Unit. “That includes the issue around being in close personal contact which is often required in sports even non-contact sports,” he added. “We have seen outbreaks in these settings across Ontario, and immunization is the solution if we want sports to continue.”

In a joint statement issued by the three health units, the decision to extend the requirement to attendees and the younger age group was made because of the increased interaction between all individuals and the removal of masks/face coverings during physical activity.

“We know that these sports events are very good for our physical health and our emotional health so we want to make sure that we continue to have these events carry on all winter, but we also want to make sure that they’re not the source of spread of COVID through our communities,” said Medical Officer of Health Dr. Joyce Lock of Southwestern Public Health.

The health units said a letter of instruction will be sent to the owners and operators of facilities in the communities they serve where sports and recreational activities take place. The letters were created by the medical officers of health under their authority outlined in the Reopening Ontario Act.

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