The Ontario government is urging residents to refrain from hosting large holiday parties this year as the province continues to grapple with high COVID-19 case counts.
Premier Doug Ford made the announcement Wednesday while laying out a number of other recommendations for celebrating safely this December.
“We are in the second wave of COVID-19 and we can’t take any chances,” Ford said. “We have to bend the curve and stop the spread of this awful virus.”
The government says the safest way to spend the holidays this year is by only celebrating in-person with the people you live with or with one additional household if you live alone.
Any in-person holiday gatherings or events outside of those parameters, particularly gatherings where masks must be removed to eat or drink, are listed as one of the “riskier holiday activities” in a news release issued by the government on Wednesday.
The recommendations span the entire province, despite many regions being in the green-prevent, yellow-protect and orange-restrict levels of Ontario’s colour-coded COVID-19 framework that allows for indoor gatherings of up to 10 people.
Other examples of risky holiday activity, as laid out by the provincial government, include visiting family and friends for non-essential reasons and hosting or attending social gatherings or organized public events that do not adhere to provincial or local requirements.
As well, residents in higher transmission areas like Toronto or Peel Region should avoid going to lower transmission areas, except for essential reasons.
READ MORE: Ontario's colour-coded COVID-19 framework: What public health measures are in place for my region?
The government says these recommendations are preliminary and they have plans to launch a new holiday web page that will provide more up-to-date guidance so families can plan ahead.
Health Minister Christine Elliott acknowledged that the past several months have been difficult for so many Ontarians struggling amid the COVID-19 pandemic, but stressed the importance of following the government’s recommendations.
“As much as we all want to spend time with our family and friends, we must continue to do our part to stop the spread of COVID-19,” Elliott said.
It should be noted that children are still allowed to visit with Santa Claus to detail their Christmas wish list, but are not permitted to sit in his lap.
Parents and guardians should only allow their children to visit with Claus outdoors or remotely and should only have photos taken while keeping two metres apart.
‘It should never have come to this,’ opposition slams holiday guidelines
The opposition was quick to respond to the recommendations laid out by the province, saying they could have been avoided altogether.
“It’s heartbreaking to think about everyone who will be separated from their loved ones during the holidays. It should never have come to this,” NDP Deputy Leader John Vanthof said in a statement released less than an hour after the premier’s news conference.
Vanthof said he believes that it is because of the premier’s choices that parts of the province are currently observing some form of lockdown and that his government’s strategy has lead to more people getting sick and some losing their lives.
“This holiday could have been different if Ford had acted sooner, and in the best interests of public safety,” Vanthof said.