Lifting Ontario’s lockdown measures could be impacted by the new COVID-19 variants, the chief medical officer of health said on Friday.
Dr. David Williams initially said on January 19 that lockdown measures could be lifted once daily cases are fewer than 1,000.
However, the COVID-19 UK variant is 56% more transmissible and has potentially worse morbidity and mortality rates, and with 51 UK variants now detected in Ontario, the previous framework for lifting the measures may no longer apply.
“The 1,000 a day was based on the hospital and ICU admission rates under the regular COVID-19 strain. However, new data from the UK — they have a lot [of cases] right now — is trying to understand, are the hospitalization rates higher? The ICU rate higher?”
Williams added that the new data seems to indicate there is an increase, and that while initially it wasn’t believed the new strain caused more morbidity or mortality, “they’re now changing that.”
“We need to take that into account and see if the admission rate with the new strain, which could become the dominant strain by March, puts more pressure on our intensive care units,” Williams said.
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He also mentioned that ICU bed occupancy needs to be “well below 200, if we can.” Right now it’s around 400 in Ontario.
On Thursday, health officials released updated COVID-19 modelling data that showed cases are declining but that the UK variant is posing a “significant threat.”
It will be the dominant strain come March, with officials saying the vaccine will be effective against it.
There are now 51 confirmed cases of the UK COVID-19 variant in Ontario. The fast-spreading virus mutation was first detected in a couple from Durham Region.
To date, Ontario has seen 264,300 COVID-19 cases and 6,072 virus-related deaths.