TORONTO — Ontario is set to make an announcement later this week about reducing COVID-19 restrictions, Premier Doug Ford said Tuesday, as some health-sector experts pointed to early signs of an ebbing Omicron wave.
Ford told Ottawa radio station CFRA that he hates putting the public health measures in place and that there will soon be some positive news on that front.
"There’s no one that dislikes these lockdowns more than I do. I actually despise them," the premier said in the interview Tuesday, adding that he follows the advice of the chief medical officer of health.
"We’ll have some positive news. I believe we’re going to make some announcements later this week about going back to other levels of restrictions."
The government announced on Jan. 3 that, due to the highly transmissible Omicron variant driving up COVID-19 infections and hospitalizations, restrictions would be placed on businesses until at least Jan. 26.
Restaurants were ordered closed for indoor dining, museums, zoos and other such attractions were shut down, as were gyms, indoor recreation facilities, cinemas and indoor concert venues, while retail settings and personal care services were capped at 50 per cent capacity.
Schools were also moved online for two weeks, and classes are resuming in person this week.
Ontario's chief medical officer of health said last week that he is watching for a peak or plateau of COVID-19 hospitalizations, and he can't guarantee the province will be ready to ease the restrictions on the 26th.
Dr. Kieran Moore said the transmission of the Omicron variant in the province may peak in the next few weeks, and increases in hospitalizations and ICU admissions typically happen one or two weeks after infection.
Ontario reported a record 4,183 people in hospital with COVID-19 Tuesday, including 580 people in intensive care.
That's up from 3,887 in hospitals on Monday, though not all hospitals report data from the weekends.
Anthony Dale, the president and CEO of the Ontario Hospital Association, said the province's hospitals are under immense pressure, though a positive signal may be starting to emerge.
"COVID-19 hospitalizations continue to increase, however the rate of daily admissions has decreased slightly," he said in a statement.
"While a slight decrease in the speed signal or rate of new daily COVID-19 admissions is encouraging, the Omicron wave continues to wreak havoc on the healthcare system."
Toronto's medical officer of health, Dr. Eileen de Villa, said Tuesday there are reasons for "cautious optimism."
"While it is still too early to know for sure, we are seeing initial indicators that the rate of infection may have plateaued or started to decline," she said.
"But we still have a long ways to go. The level of viral activity in our community continues to be concerning and continues to put a significant strain on our health-care system."
There were also 37 new COVID-19 deaths reported Tuesday in Ontario.
The province reported 7,086 new cases of COVID-19, though Public Health Ontario has said the number is likely higher because of a current policy restricting who can access tests.
Eighty-two per cent of Ontario residents aged five and older have received two doses of a COVID-19 vaccine and 88 per cent have at least one dose.
About 56 per cent of long-term care homes in the province have active COVID-19 outbreaks.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 18, 2022.
Allison Jones, The Canadian Press