Provinces announce new measures as Omicron fuels rise in COVID cases, hospitalization


Published January 3, 2022 at 12:57 pm

Provinces are putting new measures in place to deal with an Omicron-fuelled rise in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations, including delaying in-person schooling in Ontario by two weeks and bringing in the military to help Quebec speed up its third-dose vaccination program.

Ontario joined a number of jurisdictions that already announced a postponed return to in-person learning, declaring the delay Monday along with a slew of new restrictions that puts the province back into a “modified Step 2” of pandemic recovery.

Premier Doug Ford said in a news conference that virtual learning will replace in-person classes until Jan. 17. The news backtracked on an announcement made last week that in-person classed would resume this Wednesday.

Ontario said 1,232 people were hospitalized with COVID-19 on Monday, including 248 patients in intensive care units, which ups the seven-day average to 210. 

The province also reported 13,578 new COVID-19 cases, though experts have said the restricted eligibility for PCR testing Ontario announced last week means that number is likely much higher.

Meanwhile, Canada’s public safety minister Bill Blair said on Twitter Monday that members of the Canadian Armed Forces will be deployed to Quebec to speed up the province’s vaccination efforts. Quebec’s booster program is set to expand Tuesday to those 18 and older.

In-person classes are already delayed until Jan. 17 in the province, where a curfew came into effect on New Year’s Eve to help ease record-high cases. 

The province reported 15,293 on Monday. It also logged 1,396 hospitalizations, including 181 patients in intensive care, and 15 additional deaths.

Alberta, Nova Scotia, British Columbia and Manitoba all previously announced a one-week delay for in-person learning, with a targeted Jan. 10 start date.

But calls to delay that further have already begun.

The Manitoba Teachers’ Society issued a statement Dec. 31 urging the province to move schools to “Code Red” status for the month of January, putting remote learning back into effect amid Omicron’s rapid spread.

Newfoundland and Labrador extended the holiday break for schools on Dec. 29, saying a virtual return to class would be evaluated on a weekly basis.

Ontario’s lengthy list of what Ford called “targetted and time-limited” restrictions include reducing social gathering limits to five people indoors and 10 outdoors, closing indoor dining at restaurants and bars and shuttering indoor concert venues, theatres, cinemas and gyms.

Meanwhile, new, shortened isolation measures began Monday in Alberta, where people with at least two doses of vaccine who test positive for COVID-19 only need to isolate for five days instead of 10. 

The five-day isolation period is similar to recommendations recently announced in Ontario, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, New Brunswick and British Columbia. Symptoms must be fully resolved by the end of the five-day period, otherwise people must continue to isolate.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 3, 2022.

Melissa Couto Zuber, The Canadian Press

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