UPDATED: New provincial restrictions to combat Omicron could come Tuesday


Chatham-Kent MOH says Omicron variant now makes up 50 per cent of Ontario’s COVID cases

The Independent has learned the Ford government is likely to introduce some province wide measures as early as Tuesday to help control the rapid spread of the Omicron variant of COVID-19..

Chatham-Kent’s Medical Officer of Health, Dr. David Colby, has told our sister paper, The Herald, the cabinet is considering measures to be announced tomorrow as the number of COVID-19 continues to rise as the Omicron variant takes hold in the province. Today, Public Health Ontario publicly reported 1,536 cases of COVID-19 with about 30 per cent of those being the Omicron variant.

Colby says in an emergency phone call last night, local medical officers of health were told by Public Health Ontario Omicron made up 50 per cent of the COVID-19 cases at that time.

Colby says there is a lag in the public reporting the data.

“It took months for Delta to become the dominant strain. And in the best data that’s come out of African countries – where it’s been around the longest – indicates that it pretty well supplants the existing strains in three weeks, and again, reflecting its hyper transmissibility.”

The medical officer of health put restrictions in Chatham-Kent Friday, directing people not to have more than 10 people at indoor private gatherings and telling churches and wedding venues to keep lists of people in the pews, assign seating and stop using reception lines. But Colby is not sure those restrictions will have much of an effect on the transmission of disease because of Omicron which he believes may already be circulating in Chatham-Kent.

While he has not had lab confirmation, some of the cases in Chatham-Kent have some of the markers of Omicron.

“Things have changed markedly since that time that Omicron has arrived and I’m not sure that in the face of the Omicron arrival, that those will be sufficient or that any individual health unit precautions will be sufficient.”

Colby says that while so far, fewer people are seriously ill with the variant, Omicron spreads so rapidly, it is likely Ontario will see many more people seriously ill. That can overwhelm the province’s intensive care units. And for some, it will be deadly. “It’s not mild for everyone,” says Colby.

He believes the province will have to step in. Colby says local medical officers were told in the emergency meeting Sunday the cabinet was being briefed Monday about their opinions for province-wide restrictions, something Colby favours.

“I think we’re going to need more strict public health measures and this is a double edged sword. If cabinet is not ready, I don’t think the people of Ontario are ready to hear what is necessary. We may have to use the L (lockdown) word.”

In mid-October, Premier Doug Ford laid out how long COVID-19 restrictions would be in place. At that time, he said local health units would be implementing any restrictions if COVID-19 cases increased. That was a month before Omicron arrived in Canada.

“We’re going to have to wait until tomorrow and see what the province announces as province wide measures,” says Colby.