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The experts: “The stop to restrictions? A mistake”

TORONTO – Having let your guard down can cost Ontario dearly. There is no doubt that some health officials in Ontario and Quebec – two provinces officially in the middle of the sixth wave – attribute the increase in infections caused by the sub-variant of Covid-19 Omicron BA.2 to the removal of restrictions such as the obligation to wear a mask and vaccination certificates. 

The arrival of the highly transmissible sub-variant and the simultaneous fall of restrictive measures have evidently paved the way for a new wave of pandemic that inevitably brings with it infections and hospitalizations. “We opened the doors to a new variant,” Colin Furness, an infectious disease epidemiology expert at the University of Toronto, told National News, “then we eliminated all our defenses.” Furness said the politicians lifted the restrictions at “a really inappropriate time” and convinced themselves that the situation was now under control.

“Their safety will collapse as infections increase,” said the epidemiologist who urged residents to be “extremely cautious” as the virus spreads throughout the community and wear an N95 mask. “What is happening I think was predictable since masks are optional – emergency room doctor Kashif Pirzada told CTV News – the sudden increase in hospitalizations in Ontario is alarming”.

Satisfactory immunization rates are not enough, according to Pirzada, to guarantee that as they say “everything will be fine”: to tell a story that goes in the opposite direction is in fact the surveillance of wastewater. Officials in Ontario, Quebec, Alberta and BC recently reported wastewater analyses suggesting that Covid-19 infections are increasing significantly again.

However, Pirzada said it was not yet clear whether this sixth wave will be a serious matter or a minor event, while noting that what is currently happening in Ontario and Quebec could be a sign of what will happen in the other provinces. “It seems that the capacity of hospitals can be put to the test again. So, unfortunately, we are repeating the same mistakes we have already made,” he said.

With the increase in hospitalizations, Pirzada said that provincial governments may have to reimpose the obligation to wear masks in order to stem infections. “The period of religious holidays – Ramadan, Easter, Passover – is approaching, during which large groups of people will gather indoors causing an exponential increase in cases,” he said.

The coming months will, in practice, be dominated by great uncertainty. “Ontario is definitely back at a stage where infection numbers are increasing quite rapidly, it’s not the time to gather or go to crowded events without a mask – concluded the director of the Ontario Covid-19 Science Table Peter Juni – with few public health measures remaining in place in Ontario, it is not at all clear how serious this wave of spring infections can be. It is true that with about 7.2 million people with a third dose and probably about 4.5 million people who have been infected since December 1st, we enjoy some immunity, but we are certainly not out of the woods.”

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