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Planning a holiday gathering? Here are COVID-19 rules and advice

With the holiday season upon us, December is dotted with reasons to gather and there are certain things to know for planning a party.

Some regions have different rules than Ontario

Men in masks dance during the Jewish holiday of Hanukkah at the synagogue in Vilnius, Lithuania last weekend. (Mindaugas Kulbis/The Associated Press)

With the holiday season upon us, December is dotted with reasons to gather and there are certain things to know for planning a party.

For now, unlike what ended up happening in 2020, holiday gatherings aren't widely discouraged in eastern Ontario and western Quebec.

Here are important gathering rules and guidance for different parts of the region as of early December. Remember, health units have some flexibility for their residents and the situation can quickly change.

Ontario

Recent advice from the chief medical officer of health gives some context to gathering limits: just because you can, doesn't mean you should.

At his weekly news conference Thursday, Dr. Kieran Moore said "going back to the basics" can help protect people from the dominant delta coronavirus variant and the emerging omicron variant.

He said that means limiting social contacts along with familiar advice such as staying home when sick except for getting a COVID-19 test, wearing masks and getting vaccinated.

As for the rules, the private indoor gathering limit (such as inside a home) is 25 people. That's also the limit for indoor public events.

Private outdoor gatherings can have up to 100 people and events in venues where people have to show proof of vaccination have no limits. Places of worship have the option to check vaccine proof and shed capacity and distancing rules.

The province would like work parties to be at a venue with enough space to distance.

For more guidance, Ontario's holiday advice hub was updated last week. Planners can mitigate the risks at indoor gatherings by having an outdoor option, opening windows and making sure people can keep their hands clean.

Visitors hold hot drinks and wear face masks against the spread of COVID-19 during a visit to a Christmas market in Brussels, Belgium last weekend. The general COVID-19 rule remains that gathering outdoors is safer than indoors. (Olivier Matthys/The Associated Press)

The guide says people should consider masking, distancing and gathering outdoors if they are around unvaccinated or immunocompromised people.

Under these guidelines people should wear masks and distance while singing or shouting.

If a fully vaccinated group is comfortable not wearing masks inside, that is allowed.

Quebec

Quebec has stricter private gathering rules than Ontario.

Indoor private gatherings can have no more than 10 people from different addresses, and that group must be from three different addresses or fewer. Masks are strongly recommended for people who aren't fully vaccinated.

Those limits also apply to tables at restaurants.

Outdoor private gatherings can have up to 20 people, but also three or fewer households.

Private events in public space are capped at 25 people inside and 50 outside.

Rules for places of worship allow up to 250 people inside and 500 outside. The venue has to check proof of vaccination if numbers exceed those totals. 

There are also mandatory mask rules to follow.

Premier François Legault said this week he would like to allow Quebec families to host up to 25 people for the Christmas holidays, but the opposition says the premier is sowing confusion and creating expectations.

Exception in certain regions and communities

Akwesasne doesn't want any social gatherings.

Kingston, Frontenac and Lennox & Addington Public Health has been breaking pandemic local records in recent weeks. One of its local rule changes is to limit indoor private gatherings to 10 people.

Both Hastings Prince Edward Public Health and the Renfrew County and District Health Unit have recently warned about rising cases and say limiting close contacts means keeping gatherings small, and seeing a consistent group of people rather than constantly mixing them.

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