TORONTO — Local Ontario health officials are urging caution ahead of the province’s partial economic reopening on Friday, citing risks still posed by a more infectious COVID-19 variant.
Dr. Lawrence Loh, medical officer of health for Peel Region, says even though infections have dropped in the virus hot spot, the Delta variant could cause a resurgence.
Scientific evidence shows people with one vaccine dose are less protected against the highly infectious variant, which is poised to become dominant in Peel this month.
Loh said Wednesday that people should continue to limit their contacts, follow public health measures and not hold large gatherings when restrictions loosen.
“It’s not time to fully start to celebrate,” Loh said. “We must continue to emerge gradually in our lives and our reopenings.”
Patio dining, limited retail shopping and outdoor gatherings of up to 10 people will be permitted on Friday, along with other, mostly outdoor, activities.
Loh urged people to get vaccinated as soon as possible and get their second doses when eligible.
Toronto’s top doctor also warned that the province’s reopening must happen gradually because of the risk posed by the Delta variant.
Dr. Eileen De Villa said the variant is a “force to be reckoned,” citing setbacks its spread has caused in the U.K.’s reopening.
“Toronto is on a solid path forward, the one narrow path while we watch what the Delta variant does here,” De Villa told reporters on Wednesday.
She said there are 122 case of the variant confirmed in Toronto, but the confirmation process is slow and the picture can change quickly.
“With the Delta variant here, we will want to do two things in particular, increase first and second dose vaccine coverage and proceed selectively in daily life,” she said.
A second case of the Delta variant was confirmed on Wednesday in the northeastern Porcupine Health Unit, which will not be reopening with the rest of the province on Friday due to a recent spike in cases.
“The presence of this variant which spreads even more easily than the B.1.1.7 variant is extremely worrisome,” the health unit said in a statement.
“It is a likely a sign that it is now circulating in our communities. It is more important than ever that everyone follow the public health measures diligently and limit contacts with others who we do not live with.”
The health unit announced on Wednesday that anyone 16 and older could book their second COVID-19 vaccine dose after 28 days, citing the need for increased protection against the Delta variant.
Ontario reported 411 new cases of COVID-19 on Wednesday and 33 more deaths linked to the virus. A spokeswoman for the Ministry of Health said 11 of the deaths occurred in April and May.
The day’s data is based on nearly 30,500 completed tests.
The province said 571 people were hospitalized with the virus _ 466 in intensive care and 314 on a ventilator.