Public health experts in both the federal and Ontario government are warning a third wave of COVID-19 will start within six weeks, though Ontario Premier Doug Ford continues to reduce public health measures.
On Wednesday, the Public Health Agency of Canada called on provinces to continue with existing public health measures, citing concerns with more virulent strains of COVID-19 appearing across Canada. And on Thursday, the head of Ontario’s science advisory table, Dr. Adalsteinn Brown, warned the new strains could drive Ontario infections to 5,000 or 6,000 new cases a day by the end of March.
Despite public health warnings, the Ford government is lifting stay-at-home requirements in much of Ontario next Tuesday, February 16, and in the remaining areas the Monday following, February 22.
Ontario’s Medical Officer of Health, Dr. David Williams, speaking Thursday denied the province was opening up. “We may be stopping the stay-at-home order, but we still want people to stay at home,” Williams said.
Williams’ comments echoed those from Ontario Premier Doug Ford who, on Monday, said that though he was now allowing the opening of non-essential businesses, people should only go to them if essential.
Yesterday, the Ford government also juggled school schedules, eliminating a one-week spring break in March and closing schools for a week in mid-April. Conservative Education Minister Stephen Lecce has defended his decision, arguing it is safer for children to mix together at schools than stay home.
The timeline may also suggest the province is attempting to gain a week’s education for student now, before a third wave forces school closures in April.
Yesterday, opposition NDP leader Andrea Horwath said pulling back on public health measures now was the wrong decision, warning it would “allow the variant to take hold and run rampant,” driving a third wave and a new round of tougher public health restrictions.
“People deserve hope and help to make this lockdown our last,” said Horwath.
Dr. Brown, who is chair of Ontario’s pandemic science advisory panel and dean of public health at the University of Toronto, said Ontario should be “sticking with the stay-at-home order” because new COVID-19 variants that spread much faster are now growing in Canada.
The new variant that caused cases to quickly triple in Britain is already behind somewhere between five and 10 per cent of all cases in Ontario, said Dr. Brown, and it’s potential to spread will make it the dominant strain by next month.