This Version Posted: December 2, 2021
Visiting others for a holiday or special celebration? Stay safe during COVID-19, especially with rising cases and the new Omicron variant being detected in Ontario.
On This Page
- Current Gathering Limits and Public Health Measures
- General Tips for Holidays, Celebrations and Family Gatherings
Current Gathering Limits and Public Health Measures
- Capacity limits for outdoor organized public events (such as outdoor parades, holiday events and other similar events) are now removed. However, masks must be worn at these events if two metre physical distancing cannot be maintained. Learn more here. NOTE: Capacity limits for indoor public events is capped at 25 people, unless an exception applies.
Ontario’s current COVID-19 restrictions still limit the number of people who can gather indoors and outdoors for private social gatherings. The following applies:
- Up to 25 people are allowed at indoor social gatherings.
- A maximum of 100 people is permitted for outdoor social gatherings.
- Retirement homes are exempt from gathering limits.
- Masks must be worn at organized indoor public events. Physical distancing (staying 2 metres apart from others outside your household) is also required at organized indoor public events.
- While masks do not have to be worn at social gatherings inside private homes, face coverings are required in common areas (hallways) in multi-unit dwellings like apartments, condominiums, etc. Wearing a mask indoors if you are gathering with people outside your household is a good idea, as it can reduce the spread of COVID-19.
- To further reduce your risk of COVID-19, continue to practise physical distancing at any gathering you attend.
If you are still uncertain or have concerns about gathering with others, consider celebrating virtually or connect by phone instead.
General Tips for Holidays, Celebrations and Family Gatherings
COVID-19 remains a risk. If gathering for the holidays with others outside of your household, be sure to stay safe. Limiting the size and frequency of contact with others outside your household is the best way to stop the spread. This means you may want to limit the number of people who gather at one time, or restrict guests to only those who are fully vaccinated. Here’s what to do:
Before Attending a Social Gathering:
- Get vaccinated if not already. Find a list of COVID-19 vaccination clinics in your region.
- Stay home if sick. Use Ontario’s online COVID-19 assessment tool to help determine if you need further care.
- Encourage everyone to screen themselves for COVID-19 symptoms prior to attending.
- If you start to feel symptoms of COVID-19, and are hosting a gathering, cancel or postpone to a later date or until you have tested negative and have not had any symptoms of COVID-19 for at least 24 hours.
- Ensure you are fully vaccinated against COVID-19. Ask others attending the gathering what their vaccination status is, so you can take appropriate precautions at the event such as wearing a mask and staying two metres apart from others outside your household.
- If you’re hosting a visit, and have decided to only allow people who are fully vaccinated, let your guests know well in advance. This ensures there are no surprises and everyone is clear about the rules.
- Before visiting, consider your health status and those of your guests. Insist on vaccination or additional prevention measures if you or your guests are at higher risk of COVID-19 due to age or medical reasons.
- Be aware of the number of people you invite over, ensuring you stay within current gathering limits. Consider keeping contact information for your guests, just in case it is needed by public health.
- If you feel uncomfortable attending a holiday gathering, stay home and instead connect virtually or by phone with friends and family.
If Gathering Outdoors:
- COVID-19 is less likely to be spread outdoors than indoors
- If gathering outdoors with a group of fully vaccinated individuals, no face covering or physical distancing is necessary (although you may want to still take precautions if you feel more comfortable doing so)
- If gathering outdoors with people from multiple households who are unvaccinated, partially vaccinated, or vaccination status is unknown, consider wearing masks if physical distancing cannot be maintained
If Gathering Indoors:
- If gathering indoors with a group of fully vaccinated individuals, you may consider removing masks if everyone is comfortable doing so.
- Masks should be worn indoors if people from multiple households are unvaccinated, partially vaccinated, or vaccination status is unknown. In these situations, you should also stay two metres apart from anyone outside your household who is unvaccinated.
- If gathering inside (and if possible), open windows and doors to allow for good ventilation.
REMEMBER: Regardless of the setting, you can wear a face covering and physically distance if you feel it’s right for you. This is especially true if you or others are immunocompromised or at high-risk of severe disease and/or exposure to COVID-19.
If Hosting an In-Person Gathering:
- Smaller is better for social gatherings, especially to limit COVID-19 spread. Remember that gathering limits of 25 people indoors and 100 people outdoors still apply.
- Tell guests not to attend if they have COVID-19 symptoms, even if mild.
- Encourage everyone to frequently wash their hands. Provide all necessary supplies, including hand sanitizer, soap and water
- Open windows if possible.
- Make a list of guests attending in case public health needs it for contact tracing.
- Insist that guests wear a face covering and physically distance if there are people from multiple households at the gathering, and some of them are unvaccinated, partially vaccinated or their vaccine status is unknown.
- Clean and disinfect high-touch surfaces.
- Follow food safety tips if preparing a meal for a gathering of friends or family. Wash hands before and during food prep and serving.
- If going out to eat at a restaurant with family or friends, follow all rules and requirements at the eatery. This includes providing proof of COVID-19 vaccination, which is now required in Ontario if eating indoors at a restaurant or accessing other non-essential businesses and indoor settings.
If Attending an In-Person Gathering:
- Ask the host in advance if they will be putting COVID-19 prevention measures in place. If in doubt or uncomfortable, do not attend.
- Wear a face covering and physically distance if there are people from multiple households at the gathering, and some of them are unvaccinated, partially vaccinated or their vaccine status is unknown.
- Do not attend if you have any COVID-19 symptoms, even if they’re mild.
- Wash your hands or use hand sanitizer regularly throughout the event.
- ‘Visit’ virtually with family and friends, if you believe it is a safer way to connect. Pick up the phone or chat via social media and/or video-conferencing. Consider using these platforms to hold a virtual holiday party/celebration. If technology is not your thing, send a card or write a letter to a loved one.
- Look after your mental health and that of your loved ones, especially people who may be alone and feel cut off from others.
- If exchanging gifts with other people outside your household, wash your hands after handling or opening gifts.
Planning for Overnight Stays
- Consider whether you, someone you live with, or anyone you plan to visit with is at higher risk for severe illness from COVID-19. This can help determine whether to stay overnight in the same residence or to stay elsewhere.
- Plan ahead for what to do if you, or someone else, gets sick during the visit, even with mild symptoms (such as plans for self-isolation, health care and travel home)
- Hosts and guests from multiple households who are unvaccinated, partially vaccinated or vaccination status is unknown should not sleep in the same bedroom and should use separate washrooms (if possible).
- Avoid singing or shouting, especially indoors.
- Monitor for COVID-19 symptoms (both hosts and guests)
If Travelling For the Holidays (including university students returning home for the holidays)
- Ensure you are fully vaccinated against COVID-19 if travelling inside or outside Canada. It’s best to avoid non-essential travel if unvaccinated or only partially vaccinated.
- Be aware of the COVID-19 situation in your travel destination. Follow any COVID-19 restrictions that are in place there.
- Continue to follow important public health measures, such as wearing masks, physical distancing and frequent handwashing.
- If returning from a trip and experiencing symptoms (even mild ones), get tested for COVID-19 and stay home.
- Follow all of the federal government’s current COVID-19 travel guidance and quarantine rules.
- Use these additional resources for planning a safe visit or social gathering:
- Read the Public Health Agency of Canada guidance on Vaccinated Against COVID-19… What it Means to Me. It can give you advice for what to do in certain settings or activities, depending on your vaccination status.
- Use the online My COVID-19 Visit Risk calculator for more direction on how to plan a safe visit.