Spring is coming, restrictions are loosening, and people are no doubt thinking about gathering rules in Ontario.

Narcity spoke to Dr. Peter Jüni, a professor of epidemiology at the University of Toronto, about what we can do now that the weather is warming up.

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Is it safe to hang out with friends outside?

Jüni says that seeing people outside won't eliminate the risk of catching COVID-19, but he says being outside as much as possible is the "safest thing we can do" at this point in the pandemic.

"There's a dramatic difference between inside and outside that's mostly related to ventilation," Jüni says. "Outside, the viruses literally get blown away!"

Jüni recognizes that people have been through a long winter with very limited human contact.

But if someone is really feeling that loss of social interaction, they need to replenish it while being outside.

"What we now need to do is choose to find safe ways to be outside and advocate so that people understand: outside is always much safer than inside," Jüni says.

"The risk is multiple times lower outside than inside," he adds.

What do I have to do if I see friends outside?

Jüni says the first line of defense is staying 2 metres apart from someone else — the second line of defense is wearing a mask.

"What I see go wrong is that people take the mask as an excuse to come closer. This is nonsense," he says.

He also says that people need to keep a constant bubble, not a changing one, and stay within reason when it comes to outdoor gatherings.

"It's not going to work if you go into your backyard and meet with another 50 people," Jüni says.

What are Ontario's rules about seeing people outside?

With the exception of people living under the stay-at-home order, Ontario's rules for social gatherings outdoors depend on which zone of public health measures you're in.

In the grey zone, for instance, only 10 people can gather outdoors (at a 2-metre distance), but 25 people can hang out in a private backyard or public park in the green, yellow, or orange zones.

And 25 people in the red zone can gather outside, as long as they keep 2 metres apart.

Ontario is still advising all citizens to avoid social gatherings and only limit their contacts to people within the same household.

"It is also recommended you wear a face-covering outdoors whenever face-to-face with someone outside of your household, especially if you are within two metres," the Ontario government says.

Which activities can be done outside?

Jüni explains that many activities can be done outside as long as the basic rules are kept in place: stay 2 metres apart, wear a mask, and wash your hands.

If those rules are followed, it doesn't matter if you're hiking on the Scarborough Bluffs, playing softball or going for a walk with friends.

"Just acknowledge certain rules need to be kept and you can still have fun," he says.

According to Jüni, people just have to remember that it's not safe to hang out indoors.

"When I see how much mischief happened inside — in big box stores, furniture stores, bagel shops, you name it — then I just have to say ... good luck with the new variants of concern," Jüni says.

At the end of the day, according to Jüni, it's in our hands.

"Viruses don't have legs, they don't have wings, you know, so they need humans," he says.

"Go outside, be OK outside and throw yourself into nature and with your friends and keep your distance. That's it. We're OK."