ontario covid

Gathering limits are back for one Ontario city and might soon be in place provincewide

It's beginning to look a lot like (last) Christmas in Ontario as yet another highly-contagious variant of the virus behind COVID-19 sweeps the world, pushing infection rates up and giving us all pause as we try to make plans for an increasingly-murky holiday season.

Ontario Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Keiran Moore told reporters during a press briefing on Tuesday that, in addition to tightening restrictions at long-term care homes, his team will be making reccomendations to the Ford government this week regarding "what additional measures we may need, if any," to protect against Omicron.

"We will have further advice coming this week on potential maximum numbers for gatherings," said Moore when pressed about whether or not Ontarians should be altering their holiday plans.

"As you know, the smaller the better."

For residents of Kingston, Ontario, where Omicron has exploded in recent days, there isn't really a choice: The region's medical officer of health tightened gathering limits back to just five people on Monday while implementing several other restrictions set to be in place until at least December 20.

Restaurants in the area, which saw a dramatic surge in Omicron-related cases over the weekend, must now close to indoor dining between 10 p.m. and 5 a.m., cap tables at four people each, and prohibit dancing and singing.

In-person exams at Queen's University had already been cancelled on account of Omicron.

Moore urged anyone at an increased risk for contracting COVID-19 to get their booster shots ASAP if eligible, descrease social contacts, and limit their exposure to others, but stopped short of warning the general public to alter their activity on Tuesday.

"You should be doing a risk assessment based on your own personal health…. and the vaccination level of the community around you," he said, noting that Ontarians have thus bar been "prudent" and "reasonable" when it comes to handling themselves.

"I do trust Ontarians to make the right decisions and to limit their total number of contacts as the risk goes up."

And the risk seems to be going up faster than anybody saw coming, according to experts who include World Health Organization (WHO) Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus and epidemiologist Dr. Peter Juni, director of Ontario's COVID-19 Science Advisory Table.

"This is historical. This is unprecedented. This week Omicron will become the dominant variant in the province. People cannot imagine the sheer scale of what we are talking about here. It is really challenging," said Juni to CTV Ottawa on Monday.

"We won't be able to keep this amount of reopening that we have right now. If we want to avoid even harsher restrictions, we need to react swiftly now and go back a little bit with our reopening somewhere between the original Step 3 and Step 2."

"We're reviewing all of our policy directions in light of Omicron," said Moore today, once again stating that any restrictions would need to be "prudent," "proportionate" and " reasonable against the risk of Omicron."

The province's top doc also expressed support for going back to a provincewide set of restrictions, as opposed to allowing each public health region to operate under different levels of lockdown based on their specific numbers.

"Every case of Omicron is transmissible to 4 to 8 more people than the Delta variant," warned Moore, who said the current Roadmap to Reopen was designed with the Delta variant in mind.

"You can assume that Omicron is becoming the dominant strain in the next coming days or weeks, and take appropriate action based on your personal circumstance, family circumstance and the community."

The Canadian Press is now reporting that Premier Doug Ford himself will be making an announcement on Wednesday following a rescheduled cabinet meeting.

Lead photo by

Can Pac Swire

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