The Ontario government is officially allowing “social circles” of up to 10 people, and permitting close contact like hugging and kissing.
On Friday, Premier Doug Ford and Health Minister Christine Elliot announced that meeting with others outside of your household for close contact can now happen.
Dr. David Williams, Ontario’s Chief Medical Officer of Health, updated public health advice to allow social circles to come into effect immediately.
“At the outset of the pandemic, we had to make the necessary, but difficult decision to ban large public gatherings and strongly advise physical distancing with everyone except immediate household members,” said Ford.
“As the public health trends improve and our collective efforts start to pay off, we’re now able to take another step forward today by allowing families and their loved ones to reunite and spend time with one another safely through social circles.”
According to the province, in order to form a safe social circle you should start with your current circles, meaning the people you live with or who you regularly come into contact with.
And, if your current circle is under 10 people you can add members to your circle including another household, family or friends.
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In order to keep the social circle safe, the province says to maintain physical distancing with anyone outside of your circle and “be true to your circle” — no one should be part of more than one circle.
“You can now be with friends, families, and loved ones who you haven’t been able to hug or get in close contact with for months,” Ford said.
“This is a very important step forward.”
It’s important to note this is different than the expanding of gathering from five to 10 people allowed in the province starting Friday.
These gatherings are for 10 people to meet while physically distancing.
For example, the expansion of social gatherings enables individuals and families to enjoy the company of others at backyard barbeques and picnics in neighbourhood parks, while respecting physical distancing advice.
On the other hand, social circles will enable Ontarians to “enjoy close contact with members of their circle.”
This could include hugging, carpooling, enjoying a patio, and sharing a meal without staying two metres apart. Ontarians should avoid close-contact activities with anyone outside of their circle if they are unable to maintain physical distancing.
And, social circles will also bring back supports from people outside of their household who can now help with children, seniors, or those in need.
Ford said that it would be difficult to enforce the social circle rules with a population of 14.5 million people in the province.
“The social circle police won’t come knocking on your door.”
The news comes as Ontario sees a continued decline in new coronavirus cases.
On June 12, 182 new cases were announced marking the lowest number of cases since March 28.