Outdoor visits, even 2 metres apart, still not OK, says Ottawa Public Health

Too many people are taking advantage of 'loopholes' in physical distancing regulations in an effort to see friends or family they don't live with, say Ottawa health officials.

Public health officials seek to close physical distancing 'loopholes'

Cyclists and walkers make their way along Byron Avenue among traffic calming barriers to allow people to practise safer physical distancing as they spend time outside during the COVID-19 pandemic in Ottawa, on Friday, April 10, 2020. (Justin Tang/The Canadian Press)

Too many people are taking advantage of "loopholes" in physical distancing regulations in an effort to see friends or family they don't live with, say Ottawa health officials.

"People are asking, 'Can I have a beer with my neighbours if we sit apart?' or 'Can I visit my friend's house if we stay outside and keep a distance of six feet or more?' Be it in your driveway or in your yard, our main message is stay home," said Brent Moloughney, an associate medical officer of health with Ottawa Public Health, during a teleconference Tuesday.

Ontario bans gatherings of more than five people and public health officials are asking people to always remain at least two metres apart from others.

Still, the best and safest place to be is at home, said Moloughney.

While friends or family may be reconnecting two metres apart during walks or even between fences or driveways, Moloughney says it's too easy for those encounters to become opportunities for coronavirus to spread.

Customers wait roughly two metres apart in a lineup to enter a Loblaws grocery store on Rideau Street in Ottawa on Tuesday, April 14, 2020. Trips out to get food or medicines are considered essential. (Philip Ling/CBC)

"It kind of starts with that and then a couple more people add on and before you know it you have a parking lot party or a backyard party," said Moloughney.

"We are in the middle of a pandemic and so only make essential trips outside the home and limit your contacts to members of your household."

OPP warns against drives for fun

People are also going for drives in the car to get a break from their homes.

The Ontario Provincial Police say while there is no law against going for a cruise in Ontario, they recommend people avoid it.

It's too easy for a drive to turn into a stop, perhaps somewhere rural, and potentially spread the virus, said Bill Dickson, a spokesperson for the east region for the OPP.

"We want to encourage people to stay close to home," Dickson said.

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Dr. Brent Moloughney, Ottawa's associate medical officer of health, said physical distancing can take a toll on mental health and encouraged residents to find other ways to maintain social relationships.

Especially now that physical distancing is beginning to show promising results, Moloughney said it's not the time to get complacent.

On Tuesday, Dr. Doug Manuel of the Ottawa Hospital announced hospitals in the city were beginning to see signs the spread of the virus is slowing — the amount of time it takes for the number of positive COVID-19 patients to double is getting longer.

"I think we should take comfort that the effort that we've put into place so far is bearing fruit," Moloughney said. "We're doing the right thing. Let's stay with it."


Laura Glowacki is a reporter based in Ottawa. Previously, she worked as a reporter in Winnipeg and as an associate producer for CBC's Metro Morning in Toronto. Find her on Twitter @glowackiCBC and reach her by email at


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