Published Friday, June 12, 2020 8:10AM EDT
Last Updated Friday, June 12, 2020 2:25PM EDT
The circles are non-enforceable public health advice, but officials say they wanted to make the suggestion to give families the opportunity to spend time with others outside their household, people they can “hug and kiss.”
"Think of your social circle as the people you can touch, hug and come into close contact with as we continue our shared fight against COVID-19," Health Minister Christine Elliott said Friday.
"This is a very, very important step forward. this change will expand the number of people who we can come in close contact with who live outside of our homes, social circles will allow families and friends to reunite safely while reducing the risk of exposure and spread," Premier Doug Ford said Friday, "This means finally hugging your grandparent or sharing a meal with your parents or closest friends but as we reopen and as we reunite we must continue to remain on guard."
The concept, also described as a forming a “bubble” or “bubbling” is already in place in a number of other jurisdictions.
Ontario health experts said that people above the age of 70, frontline healthcare workers or those who are immunocompromised can continue isolating themselves if they choose.
For instance, if a family of two parents and a child wants to see a set of grandparents and another family of three, they can all agree to regularly spend time together, with two other spots in the “circle” for others.
Once people agree to hang out together, they should not agree to be part of “more than one circle.”
Contact with anyone outside a social circle should still involve physical distancing, and everyone in or out of a circle should still be washing their hands regularly and wearing face coverings where distancing is not possible.
"We are talking about two different groups, we are talking about the social circles of 10 people and then social gatherings," Elliott said. "Social gatherings are friends, family, they don't have to necessarily need to be part of your social circle but you do need to continue to maintain physical distancing so you can see them, you just have to be spaced two metres apart."
Health officials said that even if some people follow this advice some of the time, it will make a significant difference when it comes to contact tracing of future outbreaks.
Doctors told reporters in a technical briefing Friday that the circles are not broken or made void by a child going to childcare, now that it is legally allowed to resume.