Editorial Cartoon by Graeme MacKay, The Hamilton Spectator – Saturday April 2, 2022
Ontario’s sixth COVID-19 wave being driven by eased restrictions, science table head says
The head of Ontario’s COVID-19 Science Advisory Table says it is “very clear” that Ontario is now in the middle of a sixth wave of the pandemic driven by a relaxing of restrictions in the province.
“Oh, we’re in the middle of it,” Dr. Peter Juni told CP24 Tuesday night when asked whether he thinks the province is in the midst of a new wave. “When you look at our wastewater, it’s very clear. You can call it whatever you want, you know; whether it’s a resurgence of the Omicron wave we had or a sixth wave, the point is really to understand this is not a BA.2 wave.”
He said the highly infectious Omicron subvariant cannot be blamed for Ontario’s rising case count and said it has much more to do with “throwing caution to the wind.”
“The point here really is it’s entirely our responsibility what we’re seeing and we just got a little bit too much ahead of ourselves and here we are,” Juni said. “And we just have our task at hand to keep the slope of the wave upwards relatively flat so that we are not challenged again in our hospitals.”
COVID-19 hospitalizations in Ontario have risen by more than 23 per cent compared to a week ago, with 790 patients currently in hospital.
Juni estimated, based on viral levels measured in wastewater, that Ontario is currently seeing somewhere between 30,000 and 35,000 new infections per day. The real number of cases is almost impossible to measure because testing in the province has been severely scaled back.
The Ford government has been moving ahead with lifting COVID-19 restrictions in the province, with virtually all restrictions set to lift in April.
When the government announced its plans several weeks ago, health officials said that a rise in cases was to be expected with any easing of restrictions but that the province now has the tools it needs, such as vaccines and drugs, to manage the impact of the virus.
However Juni warned Tuesday that the modelling projections are “just a scenario” based on a moderate increase in transmission corresponding with a moderate change in behaviour.
“That’s not what we’re seeing anymore. We see more than that, people mask less and they have more contacts,” Juni said. “Therefore, you can expect that all numbers will be higher than what we projected in the upper limit. It will go more towards a worst case scenario.”
A number of doctors and health officials have said there should not be any urgency in lifting some of the most basic health measures, such as masking in crowded or high-risk settings.
Juni said the idea that mask restrictions will lift and never come back “probably won’t play out this way. We just need to be aware of that.”
“If we now lift masking for instance in our congregate settings etc., this could be very, very challenging.”
He added that “we first need to ride this out before we lift any more restrictions and strongly recommend to people again: please mask, please get vaccinated.” (CTV News)