The Ontario government has hit the pause button.
With the average daily case count of new COVID-19 infections topping 500 for the first time in weeks, the province announced on Wednesday afternoon a pause on the lifting of capacity limits in remaining high-risk settings, where proof-of-vaccination is required.
The capacity limits were to be lifted for the following next Monday:
In a news release, the province said the decision was taken in consultation with the Chief Medical Officer of Health.
“The government and the Chief Medical Officer of Health will continue to monitor the data for the next 28 days to determine when it is safe to lift capacity limits in these settings,” according to the release.
While Ontario’s hospital and intensive care capacity remains stable and the province continues to report one of the lowest rates of active cases in the country, the statement noted certain public health trends including the effective reproduction number and percent positivity have increased slightly over the past week.
The statement said, “an increase in cases was always expected as more people move indoors due to the colder weather and as the province eased measures.”
The announcement comes only a day after Health Minister Christine Elliott vowed Ontario would “stay the course” with its plan to lift all remaining public health restrictions by March, despite the rising number of infections.
“Throughout the pandemic our government has taken a cautious approach to reopening, ensuring our hospital capacity remains stable and the province continues to report one of the lowest rates of active cases in the country,” according to a comment from Elliott in the release. “To protect our hard-fought progress and ensure we can continue to manage COVID-19 for the long-term, more time is needed before we can take the next step forward in our reopening plan.”
The government maintains Ontario’s cautious approach is working, with weekly case incident rates still well below the national average and the province tracking below the lower range scenario for ICU projections outlined by the Ontario COVID-19 Science Advisory Table.
“While Ontario has continued to make progress as a result of its safe and cautious approach to reopening, it is necessary to make this deliberate pause as we approach the winter holidays where more people will begin gathering indoors and where students will be returning to in-class learning in January after celebrating with friends and family,” said Dr. Kieran Moore, Chief Medical Officer of Health. “Over the coming weeks and months, we need to stay the course on reaching those who have not yet been vaccinated, follow public health and workplace safety measures, and continue to remain vigilant in order to minimize the transmission of COVID-19 and keep our communities safe.”