TORONTO — Ontario’s chief medical officer of health says families can now expand the number of people they have close contact with to 10.

The new public health advice from Dr. David Williams means physical distancing does not need to be practised between members of the same so-called “social circle.”

The province says if a household has less than 10 people they can add to their circle, but a person can only be part of one group.

People in a group are advised to continue to maintain physical distancing with anyone outside of their circle.

Public health says the concept will help families with child- and elder-care needs, and reduce social isolation during the pandemic.

The government says people at higher risk of contracting COVID-19 may not want to participate.

The public health advice applies across the entire province.

Meanwhile, most Ontario regions outside the Toronto and Hamilton areas were allowed to reopen more businesses on Friday, with some asking GTA residents to stay away.

The second stage of the province’s reopening includes restaurant patios, hair salons and swimming pools.

The limit on social gatherings also increased from five to 10 provincewide, though people must still stay two metres away from anyone outside their own household.

Child-care centres across Ontario are also allowed to reopen, but it’s not yet clear how many will be able to implement new pandemic safety measures immediately.

The current pandemic restrictions will stay in place for the Greater Toronto and Hamilton areas, which have a high concentration of COVID-19 cases.

Jeff Lehman, mayor of Barrie, Ont., said waterfront parking lots will be open only to residents of his city.

“This is not the time for day-trippers to come up from the GTA,” Lehman said on Thursday. “We do want to give priority to residents and allow them to be able to use the beach.”

Barrie residents will need a waterfront parking pass and have to display it on their vehicles, Lehman said. Residents getting ticketed would be able to show proof of residency to get the ticket cancelled.

Also reopening this weekend in Barrie will be about 50 restaurant patios. Distancing requirements will be in place and most will operate on a reservation system, requiring people to call ahead, the mayor said. Other facilities, such as splash pads, will reopen in the coming week.

Border regions such as Windsor-Essex, Lambton County and Niagara, as well as Haldimand-Norfolk, which has seen an outbreak among migrant workers, are also being held back from moving to Stage 2.

Ontario reported 182 new cases of COVID-19 on Friday, an increase of 0.6 per cent over the previous day and the lowest daily number of cases since late March.

The new number brings the province to a total of 31,726 cases.

It also coincides with a record number of tests completed — 28,335.

The province also reported 11 new deaths for a total of 2,498.

There are 26,187 resolved cases — an additional 302 from the previous day.

The federal government on Friday extended the deployment of Canadian Forces members to a number of long-term care homes in Ontario.

The soldiers were initially called in to help in a number of the province’s hardest-hit homes in late April. They will now remain at the facilities until June 26.

Long-term Care Minister Merrilee Fullerton said in a statement that the province was grateful for the expanded deployment.

“This extension will ensure that the high-risk homes to which they are deployed will continue to benefit from their skill and efforts to fight COVID-19,” she said. 

This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 11, 2020.

Shawn Jeffords and Paola Loriggio, The Canadian Press

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