Ontario Premier Doug Ford says the province needs to “learn to live with” COVID-19.
Ford made the comments in an interview that aired Friday on a local Peterborough, Ont., radio station, a day after the province’s top doctor made similar remarks.
Asked whether Ontario’s reopening plan would work well, Ford said he’s confident it will because virus test positivity has dropped since public health restrictions took effect earlier this month.
Restrictions on businesses like restaurants, gyms and theatres will ease on Monday, allowing such venues to open with capacity limits.
Ford said restrictions brought in this month to blunt a wave of Omicron infections are working.
He noted that his government’s plan involves reopening cautiously, with 50 per cent capacity limits in place at first, and said the province needs to learn to live with the virus to get back to normal.
“There’s no one in this province who wants to open up quicker than I do,” Ford told PTBO Today Radio. “I want to get back to normal. We’ve got to learn to live with this and get things back to normal and we’re going to get there.”
On Thursday, the province’s chief medical officer of health also remarked on the need to strike a balance between living with the virus and reopening cautiously.
“In the face of Omicron, I absolutely think … we have to learn to live with this virus,” Dr. Kieran Moore said during a weekly news conference on the pandemic.
“We’ve let our lives be controlled for the last two years in a significant amount of fear and now we’re going to have to change some of that thinking.”
Moore noted that the highly transmissible Omicron variant has changed the situation and also highlighted vaccines and treatments for infection that have become available since the pandemic began two years ago.
Ford said Friday that’s he’s happy the province is allowing businesses to reopen even with capacity restrictions. He added that he understands the financial difficulties small business owners have dealt with during the pandemic and asked Ontarians to support them when they reopen.
“I encourage everyone to get out there on Monday. Go for dinner, get takeout. Support the small businesses,” he said.
Some surgeries that were paused during the Omicron wave in a bid to preserve health care system capacity will also be able to resume on Monday. Limits on social gatherings will increase as well.
Ontario reported 607 people in intensive care on Friday with COVID-19 and 3,535 hospitalized patients in total.
That was down from 3,645 people hospitalized with the illness the day before and up from 599 patients in ICU.
There were 387 patients on ventilators due to the illness, and the province also reported 67 more deaths from the virus that happened over the last month.
There were 5,337 new COVID-19 cases reported but the real number is likely higher due to a restricted testing policy.
Fifteen more deaths among long-term care residents were reported since the last daily update and 56 per cent of long-term care homes were experiencing COVID-19 outbreaks as of Friday.