Ontario government says lockdown will likely last longer than expected
Based on earlier statements from the provincial government, residents of Ontario have been expecting our harsh iteration of lockdown to ease up when daily new COVID-19 case counts in the province reach around 1,000.
And, given that these numbers this week dipped below the 2,000 mark for the first time since early December, we were collectively hoping that this may be sometime fairly soon, with Toronto Mayor John Tory even saying that on Wednesday that it's time to start talking about reopening the city.
But, the province's health officials dimmed that hope on Friday in speaking about their new six-part action plan for tacking the virus and its new variant, which the government is taking extremely seriously.
Premier Ford says Dr. Williams is in a difficult position because he has to balance health and "the economy a little" #Onpoli— Travis Dhanraj (@Travisdhanraj) January 29, 2021
Ontario Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. David Williams said the figures that his health team will be taking into account when assessing when to open things up again also include things like ICU admissions and capacity, and that the original goals set were in regards to the regular COVID-19 strain.
"We're getting some new data in from the U.K. and other places that have a lot of [the variant] right now and trying to understand if that hospitalization rate is higher and if the ICU rate is higher... and it seems to be indicating that," Williams said at a media briefing this afternoon.
He also added that new information on morbidity and mortality rates of the new variants, which were initially thought to be simply more transmissible than the initial strain, is starting to show that the variants may indeed be more fatal.
"We're going to have to take that into account and see [about] the actual admission rate with the variant. If it becomes our dominant strain, that would certainly change the pressure on our intensive care units."
So, instead of that 1,000 daily new case number, the province will be focusing on getting to below 200 COVID-19 patients in the ICU across the entire province of 14.5 million — something Williams says will take "concerted effort."
"We're going to do our best to keep that number down and understand how [the variant] is going to affect our hospital admission rates and ICU rates, then we'll have to modify our numbers accordingly."
At the time of publication, there are 1,291 Ontarians in hospital with the novel coronavirus, 360 of which are ill enough to require ICU treatment and 271 of which are on a ventilator.
Ontario Minister of Health and Deputy Premier Christine Elliott confirmed during the same presser that lifting of public health and safety measures "must be considered very carefully" until we know more about how the variants spread and until our COVID-19 numbers in general are lower.
The official release from the province today states that lockdown measures, in fact, "will not be considered at this time" at all.
NEW - The Ford government releases a six point “action plan” to prevent the spread of Covid-19. pic.twitter.com/BrhBeEhNJT— Richard Southern (@richard680news) January 29, 2021
The latest changes to the Ford administration's pandemic response, which were announced today, include mandatory COVID testing for all travelers arriving at Pearson airport from international destinations, as Ford says the federal government's implementation of their own version of this program nationwide will take "a few weeks too long."
Also coming into effect are enhancing screening and sequencing in labs to detect the new variant among all COVID-19 swabs, maintaining public health measures, strengthening case and contact management through additional testing and quarantine measures, enhancing protections for those in long-term care and congregate living situations, and leveraging data to inform further action.
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