toronto social distancing rules

These are the rules for social distancing in Toronto right now

Memo to everyone in Toronto: Social distancing rules are still very much in effect across the city right now as public health officials continue to fight the global pandemic that's kept us all apart for nearly two-and-a-half months.

Sure, it may look like life is returning to normal (or something like it) as Ontario moves forward with Stage 1 of its economic reopening plan, but we're nowhere near out of the woods when it comes to the spread of COVID-19.

You'd be forgiven, however, for being confused about what is and isn't allowed right now. Customers are once again shopping inside retail stores, restrictions on recreational amenities have been lifted and nice weather is bringing more and more people out of their quarantine caves.

This doesn't mean we're allowed to hang out with our friends like we did before the pandemic hit, unfortunately — not even while wearing face masks.


As of Wednesday, May 20, these are the social distancing rules all people in Toronto need to follow under threat of steep fines and potentially even jail time:

  • The city's physical distancing by-law states that all people must keep two metres of distance between themselves and people they don't live with while in public. Government officials recommend thinking of two geese or three raccoons (like, actually) to gauge the amount of space one should stay away from others.
     
  • All residents are prohibited from gathering in groups of more than five (with the exception of families who live together) per an order issued under Ontario's Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act. First implemented at the end of March, this order will be in effect until at least May 29.
     
  • Anyone who has a confirmed active COVID-19 infection, shows signs or symptoms of COVID-19, is awaiting the results of a COVID-19 test or has recently had close contact with someone confirmed to have COVID-19 is ordered by Toronto's medical officer of health to stay home and self-isolate for 14 days.
     
  • People returning home from international travel must self-isolate for two weeks upon their return, by order of the federal government.
     
  • Non-essential businesses which have not yet been given explicit permission by the province to reopen must remain closed.
     
  • Short-term rental activity (such as renting out one's home through Airbnb) is strictly prohibited in Ontario, with rare exceptions involving those in dire need of housing.
     
  • Shelter and respite sites must keep at least two metres of lateral separation between beds or alternate sleeping arrangements and the top bunks of bunk beds are not to be used. 
     
  • All team sports remain banned in City-owned parks and facilities.
     
  • Playground equipment, pools, outdoor gyms, splash pads, park bathroom facilities and anything else locked or cordoned off with yellow tape are still off-limits. Toronto maintains the right to close any park or part of it at any time in the interest of public safety.

Toronto Police and bylaw enforcement officers continue to respond to complaints and are proactively patrolling public spaces in an effort to ensure compliance with these and all other COVID-19 specific government orders.

Those who violate municipal emergency orders, such as those mandating the practice of physical distancing, can receive tickets from city bylaw enforcement officers that carry fines of up to $5,000 upon conviction.

Anyone caught violating provincial orders, such as those prohibiting groups of more than five from congregating, are liable to be fined up anywhere from $750 to $100,000 and jailed for one year under Ontario's Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act.

As of May 20, more than 9,129 cases of COVID-19 had been confirmed in Toronto with 713 deaths and 6,735 recoveries logged.

Lead photo by

Hector Vasquez


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