Coronavirus: Ontario introduces ‘social circles’ allowing interaction outside of household

The Ontario government is introducing “social circles,” aimed at allowing residents to interact with individuals outside of their household as restrictions continue to ease amid improving coronavirus case numbers.

The news comes as the gathering limit increased Friday from five to 10 people and many regions in the province entered Stage 2 of reopening.

“Social circle” guidelines allow Ontarians to expand a social group up to a maximum of 10 people, including those in their household, without physical distancing.

READ MORE: Coronavirus: What you can and cannot do in Ontario amid Phase 2 of reopening

The concept takes effect throughout the province on Friday. Premier Doug Ford is scheduled to speak about it in his daily press conference at 1 p.m.

The government has released a step-by-step guide on how to build a social circle, a summarized version of which is below:

Step 1

  • Begin by including those already in your household and anyone who would come into regular close contact with those who you live with, including babysitters or caregivers. Include anyone in their households as well, even if you do not see them often.

Step 2

  • If your current circle is under 10 people, you can add other family members or friends.
  • Consider those in their household to be a part of your social circle. You may never see them, but they are still considered a part of your circle.
  • Individuals at high risk of COVID-19, including those over 70, can participate in social circles depending on the circumstances.

READ MORE: 182 new coronavirus cases, 11 deaths in Ontario as total cases hit 31,726

Step 3

  • Get agreement and understanding from everyone who joins your circle. Frontline healthcare workers can join a circle, so long as everyone understands the risks.

Step 4

  • Continue to physically distance from anyone outside of your circle and follow public health advice, including frequent hand washing.
  • If someone inside your social circle begins feeling ill, they should self-isolate. Everyone else in the circle should closely monitor for symptoms and get tested if they feel they have been exposed to COVID-19.

Step 5

  • Remain a part of only one social circle.

The government said this concept, which has been used in other jurisdictions, allows for quick contact tracing if positive cases arise, while also helping to improve the mental health of Ontarians who have been in social isolation for months.

Ontario reported 182 new coronavirus cases on Friday, marking the lowest single-day increase since March 28. Over 28,000 additional tests were conducted.

© 2020 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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