Hosting, postponing or cancelling mass gatherings

Last revised on March 31, 2020.
PLEASE NOTE- IMPORTANT UPDATES 

Ontario prohibits gatherings of more than five people with strict exceptions. Read the Province of Ontario's News Release.

It is imperative that everyone in Ottawa practice physical distancing and avoid groups to limit the spread of COVID-19. Until further notice, events and mass gatherings should be cancelled or postponed. 

Visit the Government of Canada's website for more information.

If you have any questions, please send an email to the Mass Gatherings and Events Taskforce at covid19events@ottawa.ca.

 Previous guidance
On March 17, 2020, the Government of Ontario announced that it is taking decisive action by making an order declaring an emergency under s 7.0.1 (1) the Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act. As a result of this declaration and its associated orders, the following establishments are legally required to close immediately:
  • All facilities providing indoor recreational programs including EarlyON Child and Family Centres;
  • All public libraries;
  • All private schools as defined in the Education Act;
  • All licensed child care centres;
  • All bars and restaurants, except to the extent that such facilities provide takeout food and delivery;
  • All theatres including those offering live performances of music, dance, and other art forms, as well as cinemas that show movies; and
  • Concert venues.

Further, all organized public events of over fifty people are also prohibited, including parades and events and communal services within places of worship. These orders were approved by the Lieutenant Governor in Council and will remain in place until March 31, 2020, at which point they will be reassessed and considered for extension, unless this order is terminated earlier. This order does not apply to child care providers overseen by licensed agencies or unlicensed home child care providers. The Province recognizes that there will be many additional questions and is committed to providing additional information on an ongoing basis.

On March 16, 2020, 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.

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.


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 alcohol-based 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 listed below, including their importance in high, medium or low.

Event

Population Attending the Event

Risk ConsiderationsImportance
Are persons attending the event coming from regions where there is community transmission of COVID-19 or from countries with unreliable surveillance of the disease? See affected areas list. High importance
Are persons attending the event members of a professional group that might have increased risk of infection? Medium importance
Are persons attending the event from demographic groups at greater risk of severe disease, such as older adults? High importance
Are persons attending the event at greater risk of spreading the disease, such as young children? Medium importance
Are persons attending the event members of critical infrastructure roles, such as healthcare workers? High importance
How many people are expected to attend the event? High importance

 Event activities

Risk ConsiderationsImportance
Will participants be participating in activities that promote transmission? High importance

 Crowding

Risk ConsiderationsImportance
Is the event being held indoors, outdoors or both? Medium importance
Will participants be consistently within 2 metres of one another? Medium importance

Event duration

Risk ConsiderationsImportance
How long will participants be gathered at the event? Medium importance

Event resources

Risk ConsiderationsImportance
Will hand hygiene stations be available throughout the venue? Medium importance
Can event venue(s) be configured to maintain a 2 metre distance between participants? Medium importance
Will there be health professionals or first responders at the event to screen and/or attend to someone who may be symptomatic? Low importance

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 order to decrease transmission of COVID-19 in Ottawa, Ottawa Public Health is now recommending that all residents of Ottawa practice physical distancing. The above Youtube video explains what is physical distancing. 

Read video script

With more cases of COVID-19 confirmed in Ottawa, we are asking that all people in Ottawa practice physical (social) distancing 

What is physical (social) distancing?

  • Physical (social) distancing involves taking steps to limit the number of people you come into close contact with.
  • Through physical (social) distancing, we can flatten the curve. That means, decrease the number of people ill all at once, so that the healthcare system can keep up and continue to provide life-saving care.

How can you  practice physical (social)  distancing?

Here are a few examples:

  • Limit non-essential trips out of the home
  • work to maintain a distance of about 2 meters from other people, as much as possible. 
  • Work from home if you can
  • Avoid visits to long-term care homes, or retirement homes unless the visit is absolutely essential
  • Avoid non-essential trips in the community
  • Limit or cancel group gatherings, including play-dates for children
  • Older adults should avoid gathering in groups of 5 or more at this time

Why you need to maintain a distance of about 2 meters from others:

The human coronaviruses cause infections of the nose, throat and lungs. They are most commonly spread from an infected person through:

  • respiratory droplets that come out when you cough or sneeze
  • close, prolonged personal contact, such as touching or shaking hands
  • touching something with the virus on it, then touching your mouth, nose or eyes before washing your hands

Our collective efforts are needed as a community. The actions you take will affect not only you, but your loved ones, and our most vulnerable. Stay home if you are able to.

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