The Ontario government is expected to announce new COVID-19 measures today, along with updated modelling that projects the province’s intensive care units could be overrun by early next month, sources have told CBC News.
The additional restrictions would come amid an increasing number of new cases of the illness in Ontario. The seven-day average of new daily cases reached a record-high 3,555 yesterday as the toll of COVID-19-linked deaths topped 5,000.
According to sources with knowledge of the deliberations, public health experts recommended the following measures to Premier Doug Ford’s cabinet for consideration:
- Gathering limits reduced to as few as five people.
- Shorter hours for essential businesses, which would involve earlier closures and later openings.
- Limits on construction activity, but those limits would still allow essential construction to continue. Essential construction would be defined as work on health care and critical infrastructure, as well as residential buildings.
- A requirement that no employees would be allowed in offices unless they are deemed essential.
Ford met with cabinet last night and is set to do again this morning. He is then scheduled to hold a news conference beginning at 1 p.m. ET at Queen’s Park.
Shortly beforehand, at 11:30 a.m. ET, public health officials will provide a briefing on the latest COVID-19 forecasts in the province.
You’ll be able to watch both events live in this story.
It’s expected the modelling will indicate that a new, more contagious variant of the virus could accelerate the rate at which COVID-19 is spreading.
“We do believe, that based on the data that you will see tomorrow … that we are in a serious situation and serious measures need to be [undertaken],” Dr. Barbara Yaffe, the province’s associate chief medical officer of health, said Monday.
Sources who have seen the modelling told CBC News it includes figures showing the province is on track to report an average of 6,000 new cases of COVID-19 daily before the end of January.
“We are in a desperate situation and when you see the modelling, you’ll fall off your chair,” Ford said last week.
“There will be further measures, because this is getting out of control.”
2,903 new cases reported today
The province reported another 2,903 cases of COVID-19 and 41 more deaths of people with the illness today.
The new cases include 837 in Toronto, 545 in Peel Region, 249 in York Region, 246 in Niagara Region, 166 in Waterloo Region and 158 in Windsor-Essex.
According to Health Minister Christine Elliott, today’s figure also includes eight cases of people who became infected with a variant of the coronavirus that was first detected in the U.K. Research has shown the mutated strain to be more transmissible than the more common strain circulating in Canada.
Meanwhile, the number of COVID-19 patients in hospital increased by 138, up to 1,701 — a new pandemic high in the province. Of those, 385 are being treated in intensive care and 262 require the use of a ventilator to breathe.
The 41 additional deaths push the official toll to 5,053.
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