Social distancing rules in Ontario just got stricter. As of Saturday, hanging out in groups of five or more is officially prohibited in order to stop the spread of COVID-19 in Ontario. If you had any plans that involve a group of five people or more, now is the time to cancel them. 

Previously, social gatherings had been limited to 50 people, however as cases of coronavirus disease in the province continue to rise, this has been reduced to a maximum of just five people per gathering.

In a statement released on Saturday evening, the Ontario government confirmed that they were taking “immediate and decisive action to further stop the spread of COVID-19 and protect the health and well-being of all Ontarians.”

To this end, they have issued a new emergency order under the authority of the Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act, effectively prohibiting anybody from gathering in groups of more than five people.

According to the government notice, this prohibition will include organized public events as well as social gatherings like weddings, parties and community projects. It will also include religious services.

Confirming the move on Twitter, Ontario Premier Doug Ford explained, "We are taking action to keep Ontario safe. Effective immediately, gatherings are limited to a maximum of five people."

He confirmed that this ban excludes family groups of more than five individuals, as well as essential businesses.

Explaining the exceptions to the new ban, the Ontario government stated, “This order would not apply to private households with five people or more.”

“It would also not apply to operating child care centres supporting frontline healthcare workers and first responders, provided the number of persons at each centre does not exceed 50 people.”

While weddings are now on the no-go list, funerals are permitted. However, the maximum number of attendees is just 10 people.

Speaking about their latest decision, Premier Doug Ford explained, "If we are going to stop the spread of COVID-19 now and keep our communities safe, we need to take extraordinary measures to ensure physical distancing." 

Encouraging Ontarians to “do the responsible thing,” Ford urged locals to stay at home wherever possible, so that the province has the best possible chance to stop the spread of the virus.

Christine Elliott, the province’s Deputy Premier, added, "These are extraordinary times that demand extraordinary measures to stop the spread of COVID-19 and protect our people. Nothing is more important."

This update comes as cases of COVID-19 continue to be diagnosed across Canada, with more than 5,650 confirmed cases as of Sunday morning.

Of these cases, 1,326 are in Ontario.

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