TORONTO — Ontario’s Christmas is shaping up to be a lump of covid coal this year as the province advises against “riskier activities” that would otherwise be part of the seasonal festivities in normal times — including gathering with people outside one’s household.
Such get-togethers are among the activities frowned upon — “particularly … where masks or face coverings must be removed to eat or drink” — in preliminary holiday guidance detailed yesterday by the premier and key officials. The guidance aims to inform all Ontarians “on how to safely celebrate this year and protect your loved ones,” according to the government, which also plans to debut a website to update the advice as necessary.
Those who live alone are asked to celebrate exclusively with one additional household as “a safe way to spend the holidays.”
Virtual gatherings and events are the safest way to visit or celebrate occasions with people outside your household, the government says.
“I know there are many people looking forward to their traditional family celebrations at this time of year, but to keep your loved ones safe, traditions will have to be adjusted,” said Premier Doug Ford. “We’re asking everyone to please stick to your own household when celebrating. Avoid big holiday parties or large family dinners to help us stop the spread of this deadly virus. By following this public health advice, we can all have a safe and fun holiday season.”
Below, Premier Doug Ford, Health Minister Christine Elliott and Ontario Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. David Williams talk about the upcoming holidays.
“No matter where you live in the province, the safest way to spend the holidays this year is by only celebrating in person with the people you live with and celebrating virtually with everyone else,” says the province.
The guidance on safer and riskier activities applies no matter a region’s pandemic colour zone:
Eastern Ontario’s Medical Officer of Health said the measures were necessary during his own media briefing yesterday.
“Less is better,” said Dr. Paul Roumeliotis, also admitting to concern that the holidays may draw visitors to Yellow-designated Eastern Ontario from zones with higher levels of infection. “We can’t forbid it. We are highly discouraging it. …. As much as possible we would like to avoid that,” said Roumeliotis, adding he plans to issue his own advice to such visitors planning to come here for the holidays.
“If it’s necessary, please take the necessary precautions. If people are coming from other zones, they need to self-quarantine and so on.”
Below, Eastern Ontario Medical Officer of Health Dr. Paul Roumeliotis addresses the media yesterday.
The government does advise residents of Red–Control regions to only take trips outside of their homes for essential reasons (e.g. work, school, groceries, pharmacy, health care, assisting vulnerable individuals, or physical activity).
“With the recent news about several vaccines there’s light at the end of the tunnel,” observed Health Minister Christine Elliott. “I realize that it won’t be easy, but we must continue to follow public health advice and look for new and creative ways to celebrate this year.”
All Ontarians are strongly recommended to continue doing the following:
• Stay home if you have COVID-19 symptoms, even if they are mild;
• Avoid social gatherings and limit close contacts to your household or the people you live with;
• Maintain two metres of physical distancing from everyone else;
• Adhere to the restrictions in your region on public and private gatherings;
• Wear a face covering indoors and wear one outdoors if physical distancing cannot be maintained or if wearing one is required;
• Wash your hands thoroughly and regularly;
• Cover your cough;
• Get tested if you have symptoms compatible with COVID-19, or if you’ve been advised of exposure by your local public health unit or through the COVID Alert mobile app;
• Individuals and families from higher transmission regions should avoid travel to lower transmission regions (e.g., from Red level to Orange level), except for essential reasons; and
• Download the COVID Alert mobile app.
Social Gathering Limits by Level under the Regulations
• In all levels, people are required to comply with public health guidance on physical distancing;
• Indoor and outdoor limits cannot be combined to increase the applicable limit;
• The specified limits apply to gatherings even if in a private dwelling, including houses, apartment buildings, condominium buildings and post-secondary student residences;
• The limits do not apply to a gathering of members of a single household.
• In Green-Prevent, Yellow-Protect and Orange-Restrict — the limit for indoor social gatherings is 10 people; the limit for outdoor social gatherings is 25 people.
• In Red-Control — the limit for indoor social gatherings is five people; the limit for outdoor social gatherings is 25 people.
• In Lockdown (Stage 1) — indoor social gatherings are not permitted, except for members of a single household, or a gathering that includes members of a household and one other person from outside that household who lives alone; the limit for outdoor social gatherings is 10 people.
• However, capacity limits for religious services, rites or ceremonies, including wedding services and funeral services, are different from the above, under O. Reg. 82/20, O. Reg. 263/20, and O. Reg. 364/20.
• If a person or business is not found compliant with orders under the Reopening Ontario (A Flexible Response to COVID-19) Act, 2020 (“Reopening Ontario Act”), they could be ticketed with a fine of $750 under the Act.
The government also says individuals living away from home, including those studying at colleges and universities, should consider doing a self-quarantine, or reducing close contact with others, 10 to 14 days before returning home for Christmas.