Ontario Laid Out Rules For Gatherings This Holiday Season & Here's What You Need To Know

The holidays are just around the corner.

Toronto Associate Editor
Ontario Laid Out Rules For Gatherings This Holiday Season & Here's What You Need To Know

With the holiday season fast approaching, the Ontario government has released COVID-19 guidelines for residents to follow if they plan to gather with friends, family and loved ones.

During a November 25 press conference, Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Kieran Moore urged Ontarians to get vaccinated against COVID-19 and highlighted the importance of continuing public health measures like social distancing.

"Wherever you're planning on spending the holiday period in the New Year please do so safely. We're seeing the expected increase in cases and we do anticipate that they will continue to rise over the holiday period," Moore said.

"This pandemic is certainly not over, but by getting the first, second, or third doses of the COVID-19 vaccine, and by consistently following those public health measures that we know work, we can reduce the risk of transmission and have a happy and healthy festive season."

Indoor and outdoor social gatherings this holiday season

The Ontario government released COVID-19 guidance for the holiday season online and reminded Ontarians that there are still capacity limits in place for gatherings.

Up to 25 people can attend an indoor social gathering, while outdoor gatherings cannot exceed 100 people.

Ontario advises using outdoor spaces when possible for holiday activities this year but says that, if you can't, you should consider jotting down the names of all the guests who attend for contact tracing purposes and wear a mask and distance yourself from others who are unvaccinated or partially vaccinated. Even at outdoor gatherings, the provincial government says to wear a mask if one is required, or if you're singing or shouting or when physical distancing isn't possible.

Gift exchanges and masking protocols

When exchanging gifts with your loved ones this year, Ontario advises you to keep 2 metres apart and wash your hands after passing around or opening presents.

The Ontario government laid out various masking protocols for fully vaccinated, partially vaccinated, and unvaccinated Ontarians for the holiday season.

"Even if fully vaccinated, Ontarians must wear a face covering and physically distance when it is required, including at indoor organized public events and in indoor public spaces (with limited exceptions)," the government website reads.

A group of fully vaccinated Ontarians can take off their masks at indoor gatherings if everyone else is comfortable, it says, but when there are unvaccinated or partially vaccinated people in the room, the government recommends wearing a face covering and keeping your distance. This applies to outdoor gatherings, too.

Travelling over the holidays

Make sure to follow health guidelines for where you're going. Those who are travelling internationally should adhere to the rules and regulations laid out by the federal government.

When travelling, Ontarians are asked to think about what to do if you or someone you're travelling with becomes sick during the trip and have a plan for self-isolation, getting back home, and health care.

Ontarians who either live with or are visiting someone who is at a higher risk of becoming severely sick from COVID-19 should think about whether or not they should stay in the same place or book accommodations elsewhere.

The government also advises that all travellers be fully vaccinated and should "stay informed about the COVID-19 situation at their destination."

Seeing Santa

If you're making plans to see Santa in person this year, Ontario says it's safer to see him outside rather than indoors.

The government says to keep your mask on when you're getting your photo taken with jolly old Saint Nick (Santa should have a mask that can fit over his beard, too).

Health Canada has a robust website with all the latest information on COVID-19 vaccines and can answer any questions you may have.

Before you get going, check out our Responsible Travel Guide so you can be informed, be safe, be smart, and most of all, be respectful on your adventure.

Alex Arsenych
Toronto Associate Editor