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London, Ont. youth sports to return as Ontario lifts COVID-19 restrictions

The wait is almost over for London, Ont., youth eager to return to sports.

Starting Jan. 31, Ontario will begin to ease COVID-19 restrictions on select businesses, including allowing 50 per cent capacity in restaurants, retailers and sports and recreational fitness facilities.

In a statement to Global News, the province confirmed that as of Jan. 31, it’s “increasing or maintaining capacity limits at 50 per cent in most indoor public settings, including non-spectator areas of facilities used for sports and recreational fitness activities.”

“This would include youth sports facilities,” the statement read.

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Abbi Lezizidis, the president of Whitecaps London Soccer Club, says they’re ready to return.

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“I’m very confident we’ll be back at the end of the month,” he said. “We’re still waiting for details from our governing body, which is the Ontario Soccer (League).”

The soccer club has been holding virtual online training sessions for its players.

Lezizidis says if everything goes to plan, “we won’t have to adjust any schedules. All the teams already have their schedules, we will just have to provide them a start date.”

“All the hard work is done, it’s just a matter of getting the final green light (as) we sit here, waiting for the light to turn green,” he laughed.

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Kevin Garden, the VP of hockey operations for the London Jr. Knights, tells 980 CFPL they’re also planning to return on Jan. 31.

“There are a couple of hurdles we have to deal with, mainly rescheduling the games that have been missed,” he said.

But despite the challenges, Garden says there’s a lot of excitement.

“I’ve had some calls from coaches (and) parents eager that we’re back and they’re looking forward to getting their kids back on the ice, seeing their buddies and teammates.”

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During a media briefing last week, Dr. Alex Summers, the acting medical officer of health for the Middlesex-London Health Unit, said the health unit is still waiting for clarification on what Ontario’s lifting of restrictions will mean for youth sports.

“I will say, non-essential activities should be limited as much as possible in order to maintain essential activities like going to school,” said Summers.

Starting at 12:01 a.m. on Jan. 31, the following settings will have a capacity limit of 50 per cent, some of which were previously closed:

  • Restaurants, bars and other food or drink establishments without dance facilities.
  • Retailers (including grocery stores and pharmacies).
  • Shopping malls.
  • Non-spectator areas of sports and recreational fitness facilities, including gyms.
  • Cinemas.
  • Meeting and event spaces.
  • Recreational amenities and amusement parks, including water parks.
  • Museums, galleries, aquariums, zoos and similar attractions.
  • Casinos, bingo halls and other gaming establishments.
  • Religious services, rites or ceremonies.

— with files from Global News’ Andrew Graham and Gabby Rodrigues

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© 2022 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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