New regulations on public gatherings in Ottawa

On March 16, 2019, Dr. David Williams, Chief Medical Officer of Health for the Ministry of Health, has now advised cancelling events or gatherings over 50 people because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

He also advised the following establishments should close temporarily (until further notice):

  • Recreation programs

  • Libraries

  • Churches and other faith settings

  • In person dine-in restaurants and bars - NOTE: except for food establishments that offer take out and/or delivery services

  • All childcare centres, licensed home childcare and Early ON Child and Family centres

Other establishments also strongly recommended by Ottawa Medical Officer of Health, Dr. Vera Etches, include:

  • Nightclubs and after-hours bars

  • Movie Theatres

  • Concert and indoor live-entertainment venues

On March 15th, 2020 Dr. Vera Etches, Ottawa’s Medical Officer of Health, urges people to cancel events of all sizes and limit unimportant trips out of their homes, in order to reduce transmission. In accordance with that, the following information should be used to properly assess the risks associated with any gatherings when the limitations have been lifted.

In accordance with that, the following information should be used to properly assess the risks associated with any gatherings of LESS than 50 people.

Large gatherings (e.g., planned or spontaneous large events) are all different, having unique factors such as population attending the event, crowd density, and geographic location, which can affect the spread of illnesses at an event. Therefore, on a case-by-case basis, event organizers and planners should consider health risk factors below when deciding about hosting, postponing, or cancelling mass gatherings during the COVID-19 outbreak. These risk factors can also be found in the Public Health Agency of Canada’s (PHAC) Risk-informed decision-making for mass gatherings during COVID-19 global outbreak guideline.

In addition to routine infection prevention and control best practices to prevent the spread of germs (e.g., regular cleaning of surfaces, hand washing stations, increased access to hand sanitizer, coughing into sleeve, not touching one’s face), it is recommended that event planners and organizers take extra precautions to decrease the potential spread of COVID-19.

Extra precautions could include:

  • reducing the number of participants or changing the venue to prevent crowding;

  • staggering arrivals and departures;

  • providing packaged refreshments instead of a buffet;

  • increasing access to handwashing stations;

  • promoting personal protective practices (hand hygiene, respiratory etiquette, staying home if ill);

  • offering virtual or live-streamed activities; and

  • changing the event program to reduce high risk activities such as those that require physical contact between participants.

If these steps are not possible, organizers may decide to cancel or postpone an event based on PHAC’s Risk-informed decision-making for mass gatherings during COVID-19 global outbreak guideline.

Since mass gathering events, their settings, and participants/attendees are generally unique, the advice varies regarding which measures should be implemented. The following risk considerations related to the event, the disease and the environment/setting are provided support when inform decision-making.

The risk considerations are at the following link.

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