The Omicron variant is now believed to be the dominant strain in Ontario, according to the province’s COVID-19 Science Advisory Table (SAT).
Modelling released on Thursday shows Ontario could reach 10,000 COVID-19 cases per day without immediate “circuit breaker” lockdown measures and a rapid expansion of booster shots.
“Without prompt intervention, ICU occupancy could reach unsustainable levels in early January,” according to the modellers report.
The SAT said on the province’s current trajectory, there could be as many as 600 patients in hospital ICUs – quadruple the province’s current number in just two weeks.
They want the province to immediately reduce capacity in all indoor settings and increase their distribution of rapid tests to the general population.
“Circuit breakers with strong additional public health measures (at least 50% fewer contacts) and strong booster campaigns (250,000 per day) could blunt the Omicron wave. High-quality masks, physical distancing indoors, improved ventilation, and increased access to rapid testing can help buy time for boosters to take effect and keep schools open,” the modellers wrote.
They say that if additional public health measures went in place on Wednesday, the province would still eclipse its all-time pandemic high of 4,844 cases in a single day by Dec. 31, but would largely blunt further case growth beyond then.
With a circuit breaker effort and more boosters, the modellers suggest the province could keep ICU occupancy due to COVID-19 to between 300 and 325 people by Jan. 1.
The science table estimated Omicron made up 53 per cent of cases reported on Thursday.
The modellers estimate the Omicron coronavirus variant is 6.1 times more transmissible than Delta.
“If we want to blunt this wave, and please note that I am saying blunted, not flatten it, 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,” the SAT advised.
The Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit (SMDHU) announced on Wednesday it was taking further action to help prevent the spread of COVID 19.
Beginning Dec. 20, capacity limits will be reduced by 50 per cent at restaurants/bars, event spaces and indoor sports and recreational facilities. Private social gatherings would also be limited, as would capacity at weddings, funerals and religious services.