Premier of Ontario speaks after cabinet reflects on tougher public health measures

Ontario Premier Doug Ford is expected to make an announcement on Monday, a day after his cabinet meeting to consider imposing additional public health measures in response to an unprecedented rise in COVID-19 cases. by the Omicron variant of the coronavirus.

You can watch the 11 a.m.ET press conference in this story. Ford’s office said it will be joined by Health Minister Christine Elliott, Education Minister Stephen Lecce, Finance Minister Peter Bethlenfalvy and Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr Kieran Moore. The CEO of Ontario Health, who oversees the province’s health system, is also expected to be in attendance.

Sources told CBC News on Sunday that ministers discussed re-enforcing stricter measures for indoor dining, gyms and retail.

The sources said the cabinet also discussed when to return to school, although they were unable to say if a decision has been made.

The meeting comes as the province records a record number of COVID-19 cases linked to the highly transmissible variant of the Omicron coronavirus. The province reported 13,578 cases of COVID-19 on Monday, according to a tweet from Elliott. This follows 16,714 cases on Sunday and a pandemic peak 18,445 cases the Saturday.

Public Health Ontario recently warned that the daily case count was “an underestimate” given changes in test eligibility and the rapid spread of Omicron.

Early research suggests that Omicron may cause milder illnesses than earlier versions of the coronavirus. Still, experts have warned that the large number of people infected – and therefore having to self-isolate or self-quarantine – could overwhelm hospitals and threaten the ability of businesses to stay open.

The number of Omicron cases is increasing

Ontario discovered its first case of the Omicron variant on November 28, just days after South African researchers alerted the world to its existence. About three weeks later, Omicron has become the dominant variant, constituting the majority of new daily infections in the province.

On December 16, the Ontario COVID-19 Science Table called for “circuit breaker” restrictions to combat the rapid spread of Omicron and prevent intensive care admissions from reaching “unsustainable levels” of here in early January.

In response, Ontario reintroduced capacity limits in restaurants, bars and retailers on Dec. 19, capping most at 50%. He also imposed their closing at 11 p.m., imposed limits on the sale of alcohol and limited private gatherings inside to 10 people.

WATCH | A pharmacist in Toronto organizes a special clinic to vaccinate school staff:

Toronto pharmacist organizes special clinic to vaccinate school staff

Toronto pharmacist Kyro Maseh says schools should stay open, so he runs a special COVID-19 vaccination clinic for any employee directly involved with students. 4:43

Those restrictions were not enough to mitigate the spread of Omicron, and Ontario set a record number of successive cases in late December.

Last week alongside changes to testing and isolation guidelines, Moore announced a two days late for the start of the school year give the government time to provide N95 masks to staff in licensed schools and daycares, and to deploy 3,000 additional stand-alone HEPA filter units in school boards.

Some limits were also placed on sports and extracurricular activities, and capacity restrictions at large venues were also imposed.

But some experts have warned that even these measures were not strong enough to brake the transmission “out of control” virus.

Hospitalizations, ICU admissions on the rise

While a more comprehensive provincial update is expected on Tuesday, below are some key indicators and figures for the pandemic provided by Elliott this morning.

The number of people with COVID-19 in intensive care units across the province rose to 248 on Monday, from 224 on Sunday and 214 on Saturday. The seven-day average currently stands at 210.

In total, there are 1,232 people hospitalized with COVID-19, although Elliott noted that not all hospitals report on weekends.

More than 89,000 doses of the vaccine were administered on Sunday, Elliott said, and to date 27,422,363 doses have been administered in Ontario. Almost 91 percent of Ontarians aged 12 and over received one dose of a vaccine, while more than 88 percent received two doses.

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