social circle vs social gathering

This is the difference between a social circle and social gathering in Ontario

There's been plenty of confusion surrounding the difference between social gatherings and the recently-announced social circles in Ontario, and for good reason. 

The two terms sound frustratingly similar, yet they refer to two completely different things. 

So before you begin interacting with individuals outside your household, it's imperative to know the difference. 

Social gatherings, on the one hand, refer to groups of people that can gather together at one time while maintaining a physical distance of at least two metres (or six feet) from one another. 

According to a government representative, these gatherings can take place either indoors or outdoors, as long as the required physical distancing is respected. 

Currently, the gathering limit in Ontario is 10 people. During the peak period of the pandemic, just five people were permitted to gather at one time. 

But as many regions began entering Stage 2 of reopening the economy, the provincial government announced that the limit would be expanded to 10 for all areas of Ontario. 

"Effective Friday, June 12, 2020 at 12:01 a.m., the province will increase the limit on social gatherings from five to 10 people across the province, regardless of whether a region has moved to Stage 2," the Ford government said in a release at the time.

When it comes to social gatherings, you can choose to gather with different people every time — as long the number of individuals remains at or less than 10.

Since physical distancing must be practiced when participating in these gatherings, you're not required to choose a group and stick with it. 

Gathering limits in Ontario are also different for weddings and funerals, as up to 50 attendees are now permitted as long as this represents a maximum of 30 per cent capacity of the ceremony venue. 

Social circles, on the other hand, are circles made up of up to 10 people that don't have to physically distance from one another — as long as they continue to do so with everyone outside their circle.

"Ontarians should think of their circles as the people they can touch, hug and come into close contact as we continue our shared fight against COVID-19," said Health Minister Christine Elliott in a government release from June 12.

In order to form your social circle, make sure you currently come into close contact with less than 10 people (meaning people who live in your household or frequently enter it). 

If that's the case, then you can add other members to your circle, for a maximum of 10. 

"If you add people outside of your household to your social circle, be sure to include anyone in their households as well. You may not see them often, but they would still be considered part of your current circle," notes the government's social circle webpage.

"Remember that everyone in a household must be part of the same social circle."

Ontarians should also be sure to get a concrete agreement from everyone that they are willing to join — and stay in — the social circle.

That means every member must agree to join only one circle, and to continue physically distancing with anyone outside the circle.

And in order to keep social circles safe, every member should continue to follow public health advice — including frequent hand washing, sneezing and coughing into a sleeve, and physically distancing with anyone outside your circle by keeping two metres or six feet apart from them at all times.

Wearing a mask is also strongly recommended in any setting where physical distancing is difficult.

Lead photo by

Fareen Karim


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