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No need to reimpose mask mandate despite increasing COVID figures: Ontario health minister

Ontario Health Minister Christine Elliott attends a press briefing at the Ontario Legislature in Toronto, Friday, Dec. 10, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Young

Ontario’s health minister says there is no need to reimpose a widespread mask mandate in the province despite evidence of increased COVID-19 spread, alluding to advice from the province’s chief medical officer and other medical advisers.

Christine Elliott made the remarks while speaking to reporters at Queen’s Park on Tuesday.

She acknowledged that while there has been an increase in hospitalizations and other COVID-19 numbers, that was expected as the province opened up.

Read more: Ontario COVID update: 1,091 people in hospital, 173 in intensive care

“It’s not unanticipated that this would happen,” Elliott said.

“This is something that when you’re opening up the province to the degree that we have, and with the transmissibility of this virus, that we expected to see the numbers increase. But we have over 3,100 extra beds. We have the capacity. We also have a highly vaccinated population. We have the antivirals ready as well. So we have the measures that we need to deal with this.”

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Meanwhile on Tuesday, Quebec announced it will prolong its mask requirement in public places through the month of April as the sixth wave of the pandemic brings an increase in hospitalizations and cases.

“It’s not over yet and we have to stay vigilant,” said Dr. Luc Boileau, the province’s interim health director.

Read more: Quebec extends mask mandate to end of April as province faces rising COVID-19 numbers

Elliott insisted, “Ontario is in a very good place and we will be able to get through this.”

Ontario’s mask mandate lifted for most public settings on March 21. 

Individuals were no longer required by the province to wear a mask, except in certain settings including public transit, long-term care and retirement homes, congregate care and living facilities, homes for individuals with developmental disabilities, other health-care settings, shelters, and jails.

All provincial COVID-19 measures are set to be lifted by the end of April.

Elliott was asked whether there would ever be a point when the mask mandate would be reinstated.

“We rely on the recommendations made by Dr. (Kieran) Moore and our medical advisers, and they have not indicated at this point that we need to return to the mask mandate,” she said.

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Click to play video: 'Increase in COVID-19 cases ‘not unexpected’ in Ontario: Elliott' Increase in COVID-19 cases ‘not unexpected’ in Ontario: Elliott
Increase in COVID-19 cases ‘not unexpected’ in Ontario: Elliott – Mar 31, 2022

Elliott was also asked why Moore has not done interviews with the media since he stopped his regular briefings last month.

“That was Dr. Moore’s choice,” Elliott said.

“He felt that we were at the point now with the pandemic that we have the tools that we need to to learn to live with it and so that frequent representations and meetings with him aren’t necessary…. If he feels that the situation changes and he wants to come back and do more frequent interviews and meetings, then he’s certainly free to do so….

“People want to carry on with their lives. We want to continue to open up our economy and that’s what we need to focus our attention on.”

— With files from Kalina Laframboise

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