New restrictions as Ontario faces Omicron ‘tsunami’

Ontario Premier Doug Ford announces new restrictions on Monday, Jan. 3, 2022 as the province deals with a surge of COVID-19 Omicron cases that could overwhelm the health care system. The restrictions under a modified step two of the Roadmap to Reopen will take effect Wednesday, Jan. 5, 2022. (Premier of Ontario/YouTube via Newswatch Group)

Correction: This story has been corrected at 1:51 p.m. to remove a reference to non-essential retail capacity. All retail capacity will be capped at 50 per cent.

TORONTO – Facing a rapid increase of new COVID-19 cases daily, driven by the Omicron variant, Ontario Premier Doug Ford has introduced more restrictions.

During a Monday morning news conference, Ford announced the province will roll back to a “modified step two” of the Roadmap to Reopen that will be “targeted and time limited,” starting Wednesday (Jan. 5).

Students will not be returning to class on Wednesday, as originally planned. Schools will continue with virtual learning for two more weeks, until at least Jan. 19.

As for the other restrictions, there’s a ban to indoor dining at bars and restaurants. Mall food courts will be closed.

Private gatherings will be a maximum of five people indoors and 10 people outdoors.

Retail will be capped at 50 per cent capacity. Select indoor settings like gyms and movie theaters will be closed.

The restrictions will be in place for at least 21 days.

Ford says supports will be accelerated for businesses affected.

The province wants employers to make sure their workers are doing their job remotely unless they are not able to do so.

“We face a tsunami of new cases in the days and weeks ahead. Now, we are bracing for impact,” Ford said.

The premier says the research they’ve received shows 1 per cent of the projected number of cases could be hospitalized. He says that may not seem like a lot but it’s enough to overwhelm our health care system.

Ford says modelling shows Ontario hospitals could be “thousands of beds short” to face the number of admissions of the sick.

The premier added that if the province didn’t take action, the results could be “catastrophic.”

ICU admissions creeping up

There were 13,578 cases reported today (Monday), 16,714 on Saturday and 18,445 on Saturday.

While the number of daily cases is going down slightly, the number of ICU admissions has been steadily rising. The province reported 248 people in intensive case (ICU) Monday, 224 on Sunday and 214 on Saturday. The weekly rolling average of ICU patients is 210.

There are approximately 1,232 people in the hospital with COVID-19. The hospitalization numbers are likely more than reported because over 10 per cent of hospitals did not submit their bed census over the weekend.