New health measures in Ontario ahead of the holidays

Ontario cannot remain inactive in the face of the wave of the Omicron variant poised to sweep the province, Premier Doug Ford said on Friday. “My friends, we’ve never seen something like this,” suggested Doug Ford. Nothing will stop the spread of the variant, he said – it can only be slowed down.

A few hours after the announcement of his Quebec counterpart François Legault, the Ontario premier said that the indoor gatherings allowed will increase from 25 to 10 people. “Everyone has a responsibility to be safe,” says Doug Ford. Doubly vaccinated people should avoid visiting grandparents indoors, even if they have received three doses, said Dr Kieran Moore, the province’s chief medical officer of health.

The queues will be back in front of grocery stores and pharmacies, which can now only accommodate at 50% of their capacity. Toronto restaurateurs will have to impose the same restriction on Sunday, as will bar owners. Both types of establishments must display “closed” at 11:00 p.m. at the latest. The sale of alcohol will have to stop an hour earlier. It will no longer be possible to dance in both places either.

Capacity limits have already been imposed on amphitheatres and performance halls on Wednesday. But the prime minister announced on Friday that he was also banning the sale of food and drink.

Less than 24 hours ago, Dr. Adalsteinn Brown, co-chair of the Ontario Scientific Advisory Group on COVID-19 – a team of experts who are advising the government in its response to the health crisis – warned that social contacts should be halved if the province wanted to “dampen” the wave of the Omicron variant, the most contagious strain of the coronavirus.

“Our goal is to reduce the spread of the virus and build our immunity through the first, second and third doses,” replied Dr. Kieran Moore when asked about the effectiveness of the new measures in reaching the advisory group’s target. “I want to warn Ontarians: the variant spreads very quickly, everyone has a responsibility to limit their contact,” said the Chief Medical Officer of Health.

The Prime Minister is not closing the door to new health measures, depending on the evolution of the situation. Public Health Ontario reported 3,124 new cases as of Friday morning, an increase of 115% from the previous Friday. Although provincial public health accounts for only 190 infections the Omicron variant as of December 16, the Ontario Scientific Advisory Group on COVID-19 believes it is already the dominant variant in the province.

“So far, we have two patients infected with the Omicron variant in hospitals, out of more than 1,000 people infected,” said Dr. Kieran Moore. However, Dr. Adalsteinn Brown’s team of scientists did not conclude whether the variant was more or less severe than the other variants. Preliminary data from Denmark shows that the hospitalization rate of the Omicron variant has so far been similar to that of other variants.

As of this morning, Ontarians can get rapid tests at select shopping malls and Liquor Control Board (LCBO) branches. But the Ontario equivalent of the SAQ was already out of stock in some places at 11 a.m. Premier Doug Ford says 10 million tests will arrive in the province on December 27.

This story is supported by the Local Journalism Initiative, funded by the Government of Canada.

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