Don’t bet against a third wave, third COVID lockdown in Ontario

Science advisory panel sees warning signs

Local health officials and Barrie Mayor Jeff Lehman are not the only ones worried the reopening of the provincial economy may be too much, too soon.

Ontario’s COVID-19 science advisers have warned plans to lift Stay at Home orders across the province should be reconsidered. They say modelling shows more contagious variants of the virus could cause as many as 5,000 to 6,000 infections a day by the end of March.

Adalsteinn Brown, a member of the science advisory team and dean of the Dalla Lana School of Public Health at the University of Toronto, said Thursday an aggressive vaccination campaign and “sticking with the stay-at-home order” are needed to help avoid a third wave and a third lockdown.

New modelling suggests while cases and deaths have been slowing, the new variants will cause infections to rebound as early as the end of this month. In fact, Dr. Brown said numbers he saw Thursday morning appeared to show the decrease in daily cases in Ontario is already stalling, likely due to the rapid growth in variant cases thought to now make up 5 to 10 per cent of infections.

Both Simcoe-Muskoka Medical Officer of Health, Dr. Charles Gardner and Mayor Lehman have expressed concern about the lifting of the Stay-at-Home order next week.

“I think one of the ways that the province could approach this would be to ease one kind of restriction and then wait two weeks and see whether that caseload really increases. That helps us also understand which pieces of the lockdown are most effective,” Lehman told Barrie 360.

The mayor also wondered if the province is betting on vaccination deliveries coming fast enough to protect people. “I’m not sure based on what’s (been) going on over the last month that that’s the case. I mean, we’ll hope so because the number today (Thursday) was really good – the announced deliveries. But let’s not forget, once they arrive, we’ve got to get them into people’s arms and that’s going to take months and months.”

The month-long slowdown in Canada’s vaccine deliveries should end next week, said Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Thursday, with the single biggest shipment of vaccines from Pfizer and BioNTech to date and almost two million doses expected in the next month.

The new modelling came after Queen’s Park announced it is delaying the March Break from school until April 12 to help curb the spread of the virus among children travelling or mixing outside of classrooms. Numbers post-Christmas Break showed there had been an uptick in cases of COVID in children.

Melbourne, Australia began a third lockdown Friday due to a rapidly spreading cluster of cases. Only international flights already in the air when the lockdown was announced were allowed to land at Melbourne Airport. Schools and many businesses are closed. Residents have been ordered to stay at home except to exercise and for essential purposes for the next five days.

“The game has changed. This thing is not the 2020 virus. It is very different. It is much faster. It spreads much more easily,” Victoria Premier Daniel Andrews told reporters. “I am confident that this short, sharp circuit breaker will be effective. We will be able to smother this.”