Ontario to allow the expansion of social circles; the second stage of the reopening begins
TORONTO – Ontario families can now increase the number of people they have close contact with to 10, as the province on Friday moved to further ease public health restrictions put in place during the COVID pandemic 19.
Premier Doug Ford unveiled the province’s chief medical officer of health’s new advice on “social circles” on the same day, with new rules expanding group gatherings and reopening of businesses in parts of the province. force.
Dr David Williams’ new guidelines mean that physical distance does not need to be practiced between members of the same circle.
Ford said if a household has fewer than 10 people, they can add them to their circle, but one person can only be in one group.
“We know there are friends, family and loved ones you haven’t been able to kiss or come into close contact with in months,” Ford said. “And today, public health guidelines will change to introduce social circles.”
The new social circles guidelines are effective immediately and apply province-wide, but group members are advised to continue to maintain a physical distance from anyone outside of their circle.
Health Minister Christine Elliott said the concept will help families with child and senior care needs and reduce social isolation during the pandemic.
“We know that a lot of people suffer from social isolation and we see a lot of other cases of mental health needs,” she said. “The social circle should definitely help (but) it won’t eliminate all of these problems.”
The government has said people at higher risk of contracting COVID-19 may not want to participate.
Ford stressed that the advice of the new social circle is just that and will not be implemented.
“The social circle police are not going to knock on your door. We are convinced that you are going to do the right thing,” he said.
Meanwhile, most areas of Ontario outside of the Toronto and Hamilton areas were allowed to reopen more businesses on Friday, with some asking residents of the Greater Toronto Area to stay away.
The second phase of the reopening of the province includes restaurant patios, hair salons and swimming pools.
The limit for social gatherings has also been increased from five to ten across the province, though people still need to stay two meters from anyone outside of their own households.
Child care centers across Ontario are also allowed to reopen, but it is not yet clear how many will be able to immediately implement new safety measures in the event of a pandemic.
Current pandemic restrictions will remain in place for the greater Toronto and Hamilton areas, which have a high concentration of COVID-19 cases.
Jeff Lehman, mayor of Barrie, Ont., Said waterfront parking lots will only be open to residents of his city.
“Now is not the time for day trippers to come from the GTA,” Lehman said Thursday.
About fifty restaurant patios will also reopen this weekend in Barrie. Distance requirements will be in place and most will run on a reservation system, forcing people to call ahead, the mayor said. Other facilities, such as water skates, will reopen in the coming week.
Border regions such as Windsor-Essex, Lambton County and Niagara, as well as Haldimand-Norfolk, which has experienced an epidemic among migrant workers, are also barred from moving to Stage 2.
Ontario reported 182 new cases of COVID-19 on Friday, an increase of 0.6% from the previous day and the lowest daily number of cases since the end of March.
The new number brings the province to a total of 31,726 cases. The province also reported 11 new deaths for a total of 2,498 people.
The federal government also extended the deployment of Canadian Forces members to a number of long-term care homes in Ontario on Friday.
Soldiers were first called in to help in a number of the province’s hardest hit homes at the end of April. They will now stay in the facilities until June 26.
Long-Term Care Minister Merrilee Fullerton said in a statement the province was grateful for the expanded deployment.
“This extension will ensure that the high-risk homes in which they are deployed continue to benefit from their skills and efforts to fight COVID-19,” she said.