VICTORIA -- The Vancouver Island municipalities of Saanich, Parksville and Colwood have ordered all public playgrounds closed in an effort to fight the spread of the novel coronavirus.

All three communities say the closures, effective immediately on Friday, are to encourage social distancing among residents.

"[Provincial health officer] Dr. Bonnie Henry issued clear directives that parents should not be taking their children to playgrounds, as health officials continue to emphasize the importance of social distancing to curb the spread of COVID-19," Parksville spokesperson Deb Tardiff said in a statement Friday.

Parksville said the decision to close playgrounds was not an easy one to make but was deemed necessary.

Signs will be posted to the effected sites "as soon as possible," according to the city.

Colwood said its playground structures and picnic tables cannot be effectively cleaned and are therefore closed to the public.

"Families are encouraged to enjoy the parks and trails throughout the community while avoiding groups and maintaining a safe social distance," the District of Saanich said in a statement Friday.