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Ontario preparing new lockdown measures in response to ‘dangerous’ rise in COVID-19 cases

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Ontario preparing new lockdown measures in response to ‘dangerous’ rise in COVID-19 cases

Ontario is set to invoke new measures Tuesday (Jan. 12) to try to get control over the surging COVID-19 pandemic.

On Jan. 12, Dr. Adalsteinn (Steini) Brown, Co-Chair of the Ontario COVID-19 Science Advisory Table, Dr. Barbara Yaffe, Associate Chief Medical Officer of Health, and Matthew Anderson, President and CEO of Ontario Health, presented updated modelling on the COVID-19 pandemic.

Brown told reporters that if the growth of the virus spirals out of a control under current restrictions, the province could see over 20,000 cases a day by February.

According to the modelling report, growth in cases has accelerated and is over 7 per cent on the worst days. Brown said that almost 40 per cent of long-term care homes have active COVID-19 outbreaks, adding that 198 long-term care residents and two long-term care staff members have died of COVID-19 since Jan. 1. Should the trends continue, the models suggest that Ontario could experience more deaths than it recorded during the first wave of the pandemic.

Brown said the impact on hospitals is severe.

Brown said that as of now, COVID-19 ICU occupancy is now over 400 beds. Surgeries are being cancelled and residents could have more difficulty accessing care for a number of illnesses and conditions unrelated to COVID–such as cancer, cardiac disease and injuries–should new COVID-19 infections continue to overwhelm health care facilities.

At the briefing, Brown told reporters that  ICU occupancy is projected to reach 500 people by mid-January, adding that over 1,000 people could need beds by February. Brown said that the new UK variant (SARS-CoV-2–B117), which is suspected to be more contagious, could worsen the situation in the province.

Yaffe told reporters that as of today, eight cases of the new UK variant have been detected in Ontario and some of those impacted by the new strain have no travel history.

Brown said that data shows that residents have not stayed home as much amid the second wave, telling reporters that mobility and person-to-person contact have not decreased with the current restrictions. Brown said that a great deal of mobility was observed in the lead-up to Christmas, suggesting that people travelled to shop in jurisdictions with fewer restrictions.

“Survey data show that the majority of Ontarians are helping limit spread by following them. However, case numbers will not decline until more of the population follows their example,” the modelling report reads.

“Without significant reductions in contacts, the health system will be overwhelmed and mortality will exceed the first wave totals before a vaccine has time to take effect.”

Yaffe told reporters that more restrictions are necessary to curb the spread of the virus.

An announcement regarding new restrictions will be made later on today (Jan. 12)

The province is considering further reducing in-person gathering limits, cutting the opening hours for essential stores like groceries and pharmacies and restricting construction and manufacturing to essential business only.

While the province reported the lowest number of new cases in more than a week at 2,903, it is also reporting 41 new deaths and 138 new admissions to hospital. Health Minister Christine Elliott said that there are 837 new cases in Toronto, 545 in Peel, 249 in York Region and 246 in Niagara. Over 44,800 tests were completed yesterday.

With files from The Canadian Press

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