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COVID-19: P.E.I. shuts gyms, bans indoor dining and limits gatherings as cases rise

Click to play video: 'Peak of the fifth wave could be this week experts warn' Peak of the fifth wave could be this week experts warn
Experts are warning about rough couple of weeks as Omicron surges before an expected peak. Infectious diseases expert Dr. Isaac Bogoch discusses the latest COVID developments – Jan 17, 2022

Prince Edward Island is shutting gyms, closing in-person dining and restricting private gatherings amid rising COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations.

“Right now, each of these are trending in the wrong direction,” Premier Dennis King said Tuesday, referring to the number of new infections and COVID-19 hospitalizations and ICU admissions in the province.

Read more: Prince Edward Island reports its first two COVID 19 related deaths of the pandemic

As of midnight Tuesday, personal gatherings will be limited to a single household plus two support people, such as home care workers or relatives who provide care. Funeral and wedding ceremonies, meanwhile, will be restricted to a maximum of 10 people.

Gyms and recreation facilities will be closed and in-room dining at restaurants won’t be permitted. The new restrictions, including continued online learning for schools, will be in effect until at least Jan. 31. Retail stores can remain open but with a maximum of 50 per cent capacity and physical distancing.

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“We cannot stop Omicron,” chief public health officer Dr. Heather Morrison told a news conference in Charlottetown about the new mutation of the novel coronavirus. “The best thing we can do is to slow it down and try to flatten the curve.

“We need time to reverse some of the trends we are seeing and we can do that by limiting our contact with others.”

Morrison reported 407 new cases of COVID-19 Tuesday and 2,214 active cases. She said eight people were hospitalized with COVID-19, including four in intensive care.

Schools shouldn’t reopen to in-person learning while the number of infections in the province is on an upward trend, she said.

“There will be a few more bumpy weeks of intense COVID activity,” she said. “I am optimistic that once we get through the next few weeks things will be better and after a tough winter, we will have a better spring.”

The latest wave of COVID-19 has put pressure on hospitals and led to shortages of health-care staff, who are isolating after testing positive. The government has said that 50 people had been recruited from various provincial departments, including the departments of Justice and Public Safety, to help out in the health-care system and replace isolating workers.

King said it’s an “all-hands-on-deck approach” and the response has been overwhelming.

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“It started with getting nurses from (Veterans Affairs Canada) to help us with our vaccine clinics and was extended to those retired nursing staff who were at home and came back to help,” King said Tuesday. “It’s not just a shortage in long-term care of nurses … it’s also kitchen staff and cleaning staff. We are responding any way we can.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 18, 2022.

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