COVID-19 Omicron: Ontario needs 'circuit breaker' to avoid 'hardest wave of the pandemic,' science table warns

·3-min read

New modelling from Ontario's COVID-19 Science Advisory Table indicates that the province could see more than 10,000 COVID-19 cases a day in January in what will be the "hardest wave of the pandemic."

With Omicron now the dominant variant in Ontario,"circuit breaker" measures are needed to "blunt" this wave by reducing contact by at least 50 per cent, in addition to administering between 250,000 and 350,000 vaccines a day.

If we want to blunt this wave…we will need to reduce contacts between people. I believe we can do this without closing schools or shutting down businesses that have suffered during previous waves, but it will take serious restrictions that reduce contacts.Dr. Adalsteinn Brown, co-chair of Ontario COVID-19 Science Advisory Table

"This is likely be the hardest wave of the pandemic, but if we can control it and drive vaccination as hard we can, we can make it to the exit, and there is an exit plan form the pandemic, we just need to push as hard as we can and control its immediate impact as much as we can tolerate."

Ontario COVID-19 Science Advisory Table
Ontario COVID-19 Science Advisory Table

In terms of hospitalizations, Ontario is currently trending towards ICU occupancy exceeding 600 by the end of the month.

"Without prompt intervention, ICU occupancy could reach unsustainable levels in early January," information from the advisory table reads.

Ontario COVID-19 Science Advisory Table
Ontario COVID-19 Science Advisory Table

Dr. Brown indicated that the science advisory table does not believe there is "strong evidence"of Omicron being less severe than other variants, but even if it is 25 per cent less severe, ICU occupancy in Ontario will still rise significantly.

"The data is very clear that this is incredibly transmissible," Dr. Brown said. 

"I do believe that if there was strong public health measures, you would be able to blunt that transmission by enough to buy to some time for boosters. That might mean that there still is broad spread but I do think that you can control some of that transmission."

He stressed that there is an "incredibly urgency" to take action due to the transmissibility of the Omicron variant.

"Every day that you wait you’ve got bigger spread and you’ve got a greater challenge in front of you," Dr Brown said.

When asked about the Christmas gatherings, the co-chair of the Ontario COVID-19 Science Advisory Table believes people could see some family, with certain precautions in place, while adding that the decision is ultimately a task for Ontario's chief medical officer of health.

"If we’re able to increase vaccination, if you’re able to make sure that you’re associating with people who are vaccinated, if you’re able to increase ventilation as much as you can, if you’re doing all the things like wearing a mask properly, I think it is OK to see some family at Christmas," Dr. Brown said.

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