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What you need to know about social gatherings

October 2, 2020
Feature Stories

Information updated on Wednesday, January 13

To respond to the rising number of positive COVID-19 cases, the Province of Ontario and Ottawa Public Health recommend that you limit close physical contact to people within your household. For those who are living alone, it is permitted to have close contact with one additional household.

If you still plan to have a gathering, here are the answers to some key questions.

Should I host or attend a social gathering?

Provincial Orders prohibit indoor social gatherings. For the sake of our community in this vulnerable time, we are asking residents to avoid all social gatherings, including those held outdoors. We're in the middle of a significant surge of COVID-19 spread in our community and positive cases are rising fast, as well as hospitalizations. Until that changes, public health officials are asking that you limit your close contacts.

Both the Province of Ontario and Ottawa Public Health are asking you to limit your contacts to your household. Having said that, we know that mental health is also very important. This is why individuals who live alone may want to consider having close contact with one other household to allow for important social contact.

But, how many people can I legally have at a gathering?

  • Indoors: Your immediate household
  • Outdoors: Five people

The Province has mandated the following:

  • No indoor organized public events and social gatherings, except with members of the same household
    • Individuals who live alone, including seniors, may consider having exclusive, close contact with another household to help reduce the negative impacts of social isolation
  • Limit for outdoor organized public events and social gatherings, where physical distancing can be maintained:
    • Five people outdoors 
    • It is recommended that masks be worn when gathering outdoors with people who are not within your immediate household to further limit the spread of COVID-19
  • Limits for religious services rites or ceremonies, including wedding services and funeral services, where physical distancing can be maintained and in compliance with rules surrounding the wearing of face masks (applies in any venue other than a private dwelling):
    • 10 people indoors
    • 10 people outdoors
  • Virtual and drive-in religious services, rites or ceremonies are permitted.

More details can be found on the Province of Ontario’s site.

Please make sure your gathering is COVIDWise. This means:

  • W – Wear a mask or face covering where required, or when you cannot maintain a physical distance of two metres (six feet).
  • I – Isolate yourself from others when you are sick, and get tested promptly if you have COVID-like symptoms.
  • S – Stay two metres (six feet) apart from those outside your household.
  • E – Exercise proper hand hygiene; wash your hands regularly or use sanitizer, especially before touching your face.

Check out Ottawa Public Health’s new Be Social Wise web page for more tips on how to celebrate safely.

What if I see a neighbour or business breaking the rules? How do I make a complaint?

Don’t approach the business or homeowner yourself. If you believe public health is at risk, call 3-1-1 to file a report. Reports cannot be made online or via social media.

When you call 3-1-1, the phone agent will ask for your contact information so the By-law officer can call you with questions. You cannot make an anonymous report. Your personal information is kept confidential, unless you are asked to testify in court.

Overall, let’s be patient, considerate and understanding. These are difficult times, but we’re all in this together.

What can I do? Do my individual actions really matter?

Individual actions matter more than ever. Preventing the spread of COVID is within all our power – it is the collective actions of every individual that will make a real difference. Prevention is our best tool in the fight against this virus. The actions of 1,000,000 Ottawa million good decisions is what will stop the virus.

Things keep changing. How do I stay up to date?

We learn more about the COVID-19 pandemic every day. When the Government of Canada or the Province of Ontario change a recommendation or a regulation, the City of Ottawa and Ottawa Public Health have to follow suit. Keep track of the latest updates:

You can also follow any of these agencies on social media: Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

For more information on City programs and services, visit or call 3-1-1 (TTY: 613-580-2401). You can also connect with us through Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

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