Province encourages Ontarians to establish ‘social circles’

Circles can comprise of up to 10 friends or family members with whom people do not need to practice physical distancing

TORONTO — For many Ontarians, the long wait to hug certain loved ones appears to be over.

The province is now encouraging residents to establish “social circles” of up to 10 people with whom they do not need to practice physical distancing.

The “social circles,” which are different than social gatherings, “will support the mental health and well-being of Ontarians and help reduce social isolation,” provincial officials stated in a June 12 press release.

“At the outset of the pandemic, we had to make the necessary, but difficult decision to ban large public gatherings and strongly advise physical distancing with everyone except immediate household members,” said Premier Doug Ford.

“As the public health trends improve and our collective efforts start to pay off, we’re now able to take another step forward today by allowing families and their loved ones to reunite and spend time with one another safely through social circles.”

The province has offered the following steps to form a social circle:

  • start with your current circle: the people you live with or who regularly come into your household;
  • if your current circle is under 10 people, you can add members to your circle, including those from another household, family members or friends;
  • get agreement from everyone that they will join the circle;
  • keep your social circle safe by maintaining physical distancing with anyone outside your circle; and
  • no one should be part of more than one circle.

“Ontarians should think of their circles as the people they can touch, hug and come into close contact as we continue our shared fight against COVID-19,” said health minister Christine Elliott.

“While this is an exciting step forward, every Ontarian should follow the advice provided by our public health experts to ensure they do so safely and in a way that limits the spread of this virus, including and especially by only being part of one circle.

“We all owe it to each other to act responsibly.”

The rules for social circles are different from the proposed expansion of social gatherings from five to 10 people.

Social gatherings can be any 10 people from outside your household, but where physical distancing of at least two metres should be maintained.

Social circles will enable Ontarians to enjoy close contact with members of their circle, including hugging, carpooling, sharing a meal, and having people outside of their household help with children, seniors or others in need.