More provinces preparing to loosen COVID-19 restrictions in coming weeks


Published February 2, 2022 at 12:57 pm

Ontario and Quebec are reporting a slight decrease in COVID-19 hospitalizations as more provinces prepare to loosen public health restrictions in the coming weeks.

Ontario has 2,939 people in the hospital with the virus, down from 3,091 Tuesday, and 555 are in intensive care.

In Quebec, hospitalizations due to COVID-19 dropped by 122 to 2,730, and the number of people in intensive care decreased by 14 to 204.

Ontario Premier Doug Ford says he will continue plans to further ease restrictions on Feb. 21 and March 14, after restaurant dining rooms reopened in that province earlier this week. 

The move comes despite warnings from the province’s scientific advisory panel.

The scientists warned Tuesday that COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations and intensive care admissions will likely rise following this week’s reopening, with modelling showing “prolonged” pressure on the health system.

Meanwhile, Dr. Katharine Smart, president of the Canadian Medical Association, cautioned that protests in Ottawa against public health orders have a risk of being a superspreading event. She said it has “essentially become an occupation on our capital.”

“It’s been incredibly distressing,” Smart said during a news conference. She called on Canada to do more to support COVAX, the global vaccine-sharing alliance.

Quebec Premier Francois Legault announced Tuesday that gyms and spas, which have been closed since Dec. 20, will be able to reopen on Feb. 14. He also said he is scrapping a plan to tax people who are not vaccinated against COVID-19, saying the plan has proven to be divisive at a time he wants to bring Quebecers together.

While there has been a slight dip in numbers in some regions, hospitalizations remain high across the country. 

Alberta reported Tuesday a record 1,585 people in hospital with COVID-19. Premier Jason Kenney, however, said he was optimistic the province would be able to relax some public health measures and remove its vaccine passport program by the end of February, providing hospital pressures decline.

British Columbia’s provincial health officer, Dr. Bonnie Henry, said gathering restrictions slowly be eased starting later this month.

Dr. Theresa Tam, Canada’s Chief Public Health Officer, has said there are positive signs the Omicron variant wave is peaking and it’s time for governments to move toward something “that is nearer normalcy.” 

This week, however, she also warned infection rates remain elevated and widespread transmission can still lead to high numbers of severe cases.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 2, 2022.

Kelly Geraldine Malone, The Canadian Press

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