WINDSOR, ONT. -- Under provincial direction, vaccinated Windsor-Essex long-term care residents can hug again to allow for more socialization amongst residents in care.

Windsor-Essex medical officer of health Dr. Wajid Ahmed said this is an important step, but he wants everyone to follow the public health guidelines.

“We recognize this is an important time for all of them,” said Ahmed. “Throughout the COVID pandemic there were a number of restrictions put in place not able to see their loved ones and I think that’s the most important part is now there will be more opportunity to do that, but ensuring that all of the public health precautions are still being followed.”

There is a catch to the loosening of restrictions - the resident must be fully vaccinated. If they are, residents can dine together again and social gatherings can be organized by recreation staff.

“The high vaccination uptake in long-term care homes means we can take further steps towards bringing social interactions back — supporting the mental and emotional well-being of residents while protecting their physical well-being,” said Dr. Merrilee Fullerton, Minister of Long-Term Care in a news release.

“Close physical contact” is allowed for fully vaccinated residents and their caregivers.

The province says once the stay-at-home order is lifted later this month, they will allow temporary outings for fully immunized residents.

The new rules however, are only for facilities where 85 per cent of residents and 75 per cent of staff are fully vaccinated.

The province says of May 4, 95 per cent of long-term care residents are fully vaccinated and more than 85 per cent of staff have received at least their first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine.

With files from CTV Windsor's Melanie Borrelli.