Ontario pauses COVID-19 reopening plan ahead of ‘difficult fall’ with Delta

Ontario Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Kieran Moore announces a number of measures to deal with the spread of the COVID-19 Delta variant on Tuesday, Aug. 17, 2021. The province is also pausing its reopening plan. (YouTube/Government of Ontario via Newswatch Group)

TORONTO – Ontario is hitting the pause button on lifting COVID-19 related restrictions due to a slowdown in vaccination rates and the spread of the Delta variant.

Ontario Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Kieran Moore also unveiled a number of measures to fight Delta, including proof of vaccinations in various sectors, third COVID-19 vaccine doses for a “focused and narrow” list of vulnerable people and shots for children turning 12 years old this year (born in 2009).

During a news conference this afternoon (Aug. 17), Moore says there’s “great progress” on vaccination rates but not at the pace he would like to see. “We’re making progress, it’s just not quick enough,” he said. Over 81 per cent of the population have had their first dose of a vaccine and “under 400,000 doses are needed to reach our target of 75 per cent fully vaccinated.”

Moore notes there was a “sudden drop off” in the amount of needles going into arms the last couple of weeks. Meantime, Delta is now making up over 90 per cent of all cases, while the severity of illness and the rate of hospitalizations are both rising.

Moore announced a number of sectors, including hospitals, home and community service providers, ambulance services and education, will have to have mandatory proof of vaccination policies in place by Sept. 7.

Those who don’t have the shot would have to provide a documented medical reason or complete and education session on the benefits and risks of the COVID-19 vaccine.

As well, people not vaccinated will have to take rapid COVID-19 testing at least once a week – the frequency depends on the local spread of the Delta variant. The cost of the tests will be covered by the federal government, Moore says.

The other measure announced today will see a select group of people eligible for third COVID-19 vaccine doses, including transplant recipients, long-term care home residents and people with various forms of blood cancer.

Moore anticipates “it will be a difficult fall” for COVID-19 in Ontario.