Lowered social gathering limits now apply across province

Dr. Paul Roumeliotis stands in front of a graph showing the undesired peak development of COVID-19 cases, versus the flattened-out effect officials hope to achieve, with cases developing over a longer, more manageable period of time. Zandbergen photo, Nation Valley News

EASTERN ONTARIO — The Ontario government has announced it is lowering the limits on unmonitored and private social gatherings across the province, including the Eastern Ontario Health Unit (EOHU). The move comes after the province imposed the lower limits exclusively within the Ottawa, Peel and Toronto regions on Sept. 18 — much to the chagrin of Eastern Ontario Medical Officer of Health Dr. Paul Roumeliotis, who desired the same toughened measure in his jurisdiction area as well.

During his Sept. 17 media briefing, Roumeliotis suggested he would impose the lower limits himself if the province didn’t, though he preferred the order come from Toronto because it could be enforced by police in that case.

Effective immediately, curtailed caps on the number of people allowed to attend an unmonitored private social gathering across the province are:

  • 10 people at an indoor event or gathering (previous limit was 50); or
  • 25 people at an outdoor event or gathering (previous limit was 100).

The new crowd-size restrictions apply to all unmonitored and private social gatherings such as functions, parties, dinners, gatherings, barbecues and wedding receptions held in private residences, backyards, parks and other recreational areas.

As was the case with the previous limits, indoor and outdoor gatherings cannot be combined. Gatherings of 35 people in total (25 outdoors and 10 indoors) are also not permitted.

“I support the province’s decision to lower the limits on social gatherings,” says Dr. Roumeliotis in a press release reacting to the announcement today. “The number of COVID-19 cases across our area and the province has been rising steadily over the past few weeks, and it’s mostly due to a minority of people breaking the rules during private social gatherings.”

Below, Premier Doug Ford makes the announcement. 

Limits will not apply to events held in monitored areas

The new limits will not apply to events or gatherings held in locations monitored by staff, such as bars, restaurants, cinemas, convention centres, banquet halls, gyms, places of worship, recreational sporting or performing art events. The existing rules for these settings continue to be in effect.

Public health measures still vital

The EOHU reminds residents to continue taking the following public health measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19:

  • Stay home when ill, and keep your children home from school when they are ill
  • Practice physical distancing with those outside your social circle
  • Wear a mask when physical distancing is a challenge (and where mandatory)
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water or alcohol-based hand sanitizer
  • Download the COVID Alert app on your phone from the Apple and Google Play app stores
In the Sept. 17 clip below, Eastern Ontario Medical Officer of Health Dr. Paul Roumeliotis expresses his disappointment with the province’s decision to lower private gathering limits in only three area — Toronto, Peel and Ottawa — late last week, while higher limits then remained in effect in his jurisdiction just outside the boundary of the Nation’s Capital. By Saturday, however, Roumeliotis’s request to the premier had been fulfilled, with Eastern Ontario — and the rest of the province — now covered under one, more restrictive gathering rule.

This article was edited to reflect the correct date of Dr. Paul Roumeliotis’s media briefing.

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