OTTAWA -- As COVID-19 restrictions are relaxed in Ottawa and across Canada, Ottawa’s medical officer of health is urging residents to continue to engage in activities that are “low risk” for transmission.

Dr. Vera Etches told Council on Wednesday that the messaging from Ottawa Public Health to reduce your risk of COVID-19 is shifting from staying at home to staying safe.

Speaking on CTV Morning Live Thursday morning, Dr. Etches said, “We are trying to communicate to the public – what’s lower risk, what’s higher risk.”

“What is lower risk? That is sticking to activities with your household. Having a picnic in the park with just your family or the people in your household,” said Dr. Etches.

“Higher risk would be activities indoors where more than one family is gathering. We’re finding things that are higher risk.”

The medical officer of health notes Ontario's COVID-19 emergency measures limit gatherings to five people or less in public or private.

“For yourself, how are you going to protect yourself and the ones you love from getting infected,” said Dr. Etches when asked about conflicting messages about physical distancing from various levels of government.

“That’s a pretty simple message right now – it still is, at all levels of government, try to stay two metres away from other people.”

Ottawa Public Health has put together a graphic called “Reducing the Risk”, looking at “safer options,” activities to “use caution,” and “least safe options” for activities during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Safer Options

Ottawa Public Health says “safer options” are “either alone, or with members of your household only AND keep at least a two-metre distance from others.”

  • Going to quiet beaches and parks
  • Gardening and yard work
  • Personal hobbies such as bird watching, stargazing, painting, journaling, and photography
  • Picnics, playing catch, kicking a soccer ball
  • Shopping online with home or curbside delivery
  • Staying in touch with loved ones by phone, electronically or drive by visits while maintaining physical distance

Use Caution

Ottawa Public Health says “use caution” means that “when you are in a public setting (indoors or outdoors), it is important to maintain physical distancing of at least two metres and wear a cloth mask when necessary.”


  • Sidestep, pass quickly and courteously, and/or stagger yourself to not be directly behind others when walking, running, cycling, and other outdoor activities
  • Spending times outdoors (including your backyard or driveway), with people who are not part of your household


  • Using public transportation including buses and taxis
  • Grocery and retail shopping and farmers’ markets
  • Attending medical appointments
  • Ordering take out food and curbside pickup
  • Allowing service providers in your home for renovations, cleaning, maintenance, etc.

Least Safe Options

Ottawa Public Health says “least safe options” are “gathering in groups of more than five people who live outside of your household unit, where physical distancing is difficult, both indoors and outdoors.”


  • Sharing meals or snacks (indoors or outdoors like at a BBQ or picnic)
  • Having guests over
  • Going to crowded places (especially indoors and also busy beaches and parks)
  • Participating in team/contact sports
  • Visiting the family cottage, if with more than one household