The Province of Ontario announced Wednesday that mask mandates will be lifted March 21 and most other COVID-19 restrictions will cease at the end of April.
But according to Dr. Gerald Evans, the Chair of the Division of Infectious Diseases at Kingston Health Sciences Centre, the shift back to pre-pandemic life is ahead of schedule.
“I think the government is about two weeks ahead of what should be, what I would personally think is the right time to do things,” said Dr. Evans.
“Each time we reduce something, we have to kind of watch it for a few weeks to just sort of see what effect it will have,” he added.
In his final COVID-19 press conference on March 9, Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Kieran Moore denied multiple times that the decision to lift public safety restrictions was politically motivated.
But with an election on the horizon, Dr. Evans says he’s finding it difficult to see where the science plays into the decisions.
“It’s probably very difficult to separate what is ultimately a political decision from a decision that should be informed by the science,” said Evans.
Evans says the case numbers across Ontario appear to be on a decline, but notes testing and case reporting have virtually been eliminated by the provincial government in recent months.
Evans says the limited data, combined with the lifting of all pandemic measures and the emergence of the BA.2 variant, makes it difficult to get an accurate picture of the COVID-19 situation in Ontario, and where it will end up.
Liberal leader Steven Del Duca says the numbers the province does have are encouraging, but he agrees that people aren’t being given the entire picture.
“PCR testing and the other forms of testing, under the Conservatives, really have disappeared altogether,” Del Duca said.
“The numbers are encouraging, but we’ve heard lots of stories from those with expertise about the real number being dramatically higher than what’s being reported,” he said.
In recent weeks, Dr. Evans says there appears to be an increasing trend in the notion that COVID is over – an idea that is easier to adopt for those who are young and healthy.
“If you’ve already adopted a narrative that says it’s over, as long as it doesn’t affect you, you kind of just let it continue to ride and it’s hard to change your mind,” said Evans.
In his announcement Wednesday, Moore said the province will lift all pandemic measures by the end of April, with a message from Doug Ford saying it is time to move on.