No matter where you live in Ontario, don't get together with people outside your own household over the holidays, Premier Doug Ford said Wednesday.

At a news conference at Queen's Park on Wednesday afternoon, Ford announced the province's official guidelines for holiday gatherings during the COVID-19 pandemic.

With the exception of those who live alone, all in-person gatherings over the holidays should be limited to the people you live with, he said.

Single-person households are permitted to celebrate with one other household.

"I know there are many families who looking forward to their traditions and special celebrations, whether it is lighting the menorah or a visit from Santa...This year isn't like any other. We are in the second wave of COVID-19 and we can't take any chances," Ford said.

"We have to bend the curve and stop the spread of this awful virus."

Ontario Health Minister Christine Elliott said virtual festivities and in-person gatherings outdoors are safer ways to celebrate this year.

"We do know how difficult the past few months have been for people and as much as we all want to spend time with family and friends, we must continue to do our part to stop the spread of COVID-19," Elliott said on Wednesday. 

"To connect with family, friends, and co-workers over the holidays, virtual celebrations are the safest option or consider exploring Ontario's great outdoors where physical distancing can be maintained while you are hiking, building a snowman, or decorating the outside of your home with lights."

Ford said it is particularly important for those who live in Ontario's COVID-19 hot spots to heed the province's holiday advice.

Toronto and Peel Region are currently in a 28-day lockdown period, which is set to expire just days before Christmas.

In the lockdown category of the province’s colour-coded reopening framework, residents must only gather with members of their own household and people have been told to only go outside for essential purposes, including picking up groceries, going to medical appointments, and getting exercise.

The province's advice for the holiday season will likely come as no surprise to Mayor John Tory, who said earlier Wednesday that he believed the Ford government's guidelines would not stray far from the restrictions that are currently in place in Toronto.

“There are restrictions right now that say that you are not supposed to spend time with people outside your own home, with exceptions for people who live alone. And so I think you will see something more along that line,” Tory told CP24 on Wednesday morning.

Ontario’s daily case count of new COVID-19 infections has not dipped below 1,000 since Nov. 5, reaching a record high of 1,588 on Nov. 21.

COVID-related hospitalizations and deaths are also on the rise, with intensive care capacity above 150, the threshold that will force some hospitals to cancel elective surgeries and other procedures.

Toronto and Peel Region continue to see the highest number of new COVID-19 infections in the province each day.

The rolling seven-day average of new cases is now 418 in Toronto and 414 in Peel.

Tory said in order to bring the virus under control, there will need to be strict limits on gatherings in private homes over the holidays

“There are going to be strong recommendations, if not restrictions, that are placed on the kinds of activities that people can engage in,” he said.

“Even if the 28-day period has come to an end and we've seen some improvement, the last thing everybody wants... is to be sliding back into some kind of another shutdown or series of restrictions in the New Year because we didn't pay attention to our behaviour at Christmas.”

Quebec easing restrictions for four days

In Quebec, where the rolling seven-day average of new infections is nearly 1,200, Premier François Legault is easing restrictions for a four-day period, allowing residents in the province to attend two gatherings of up to 10 people between Dec. 24 and Dec. 27.

On Monday, Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister asked residents only to gather with those in their immediate households over the holidays due to a surge in new cases in that province.

Dr. Isaac Bogoch, an infectious diseases expert, told CP24 on Wednesday morning that a modified holiday season is necessary this year.

“We know that indoor spaces, crowded spaces, confined spaces where people aren’t wearing masks in indoor spaces, we know that that’s how this is transmitted so we should be avoiding that at all costs," he said.

"Connect virtually, connect outdoors, connect safely but let’s not have large family gatherings.”