Ontarians will need to exercise patience as the province begins to gradually reopen, the head of the Ontario’s science advisory table says.
Dr. Peter Juni told Global News that it will likely take some time to see the impact of the first phase of reopening on the province’s health-care system, adding that it is something that will have to be carefully monitored.
Juni said currently, two important metrics are helping experts monitor the spread of the virus in the province.
He said the test positivity rate and the amount of virus found in Ontario’s wastewater systems have both been on downward trajectories.
“And that’s good news,” he said.
Juni said this means the province will likely see a “valley,” in cases. However, he said that will “most likely go up again once we reopen now.”
By continuing to monitor test positivity and wastewater, Juni said it will “help us anticipate whether we need to wait a little bit longer or not with the next reopening step after Jan. 31.”
“The point here is not to be impatient with the next reopening step,” he said.
Juni’s comments come just a day before the province is set to lift several COVID-19 restrictions.
Beginning Monday, social gatherings can increase to a maximum of 10 people indoors, and 25 outdoors.
Restaurants, bars, retail stores, malls, gyms, cinemas and other indoor public settings can open to 50 per cent capacity.
Sporting events, concert venues and theatres can open with no more than 500 people and smaller venues can open to half capacity.
The province is planning to life more measures on Feb 21, and again on March 14.
Juni said currently there is a “window of opportunity to keep the reopening safer.”
He said the province should expand its definition of “fully vaccinated” from two to three doses of a COVID-19 vaccine.
This would make “perfect sense for a limited amount of time, to make sure we keep things reasonably well under control,”Juni said.
He said two or three months after someone receives a second dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, their protection against developing serious outcomes from the virus is “still good.”
“But there’s not much protection left against infection,” Juni said. “And that’s the challenge at hand.”
Juni said for those 40 and older, a third dose will “offer considerably more protection against hospital and ICU admissions.”
“But for everybody, it will offer also a lot of protection against infection which would, for a few weeks, be the right thing to do to make sure that restaurants, bars, gyms, etc., stay as safe as they can, knowing that we decrease the risk of infection and therefore transmission probably by about 2.5 fold.”
Juni noted, though, that it’s “not the same amount of protection” that people received against the Delta or Alpha variants.
“But it is still relevant protection that would help us to navigate the next few weeks of the pandemic because we need to ride out this Omicron wave without, again, overwhelming the health-care system,” he said.
Juni urged the public to get their booster doses, especially those 40 and older.
“It protects you yourself, and it also protects our health-care system if you get a third dose now,” he said.
On Sunday, the province reported 3,019 people were receiving care for COVID-19 in a hospital. A total of 587 were in an intensive care unit.
— with files from The Canadian Press