Katherine DeClerq CTV News Toronto Multi-Platform Writer
Premier Doug Ford will meet with cabinet Friday to mull over a number of public health measures as the COVID-19 situation worsens in the province, sources say.
Multiple sources told CTV News Toronto the government was presented with several options at a meeting held earlier this week, including closing schools for a period of time before and after the winter break, as well as returning the province to Step 3 of its reopening plan.
However, sources said the government at the time was not prepared to make any major changes when it comes to public health restrictions. Instead, they will be focusing on new guidance over the Christmas break.
Another cabinet meeting is scheduled for 10 a.m. on Friday, sources say.
The government will consider a new measure that would eliminate the paper copy of the COVID-19 vaccine certificate, making it so that residents have to use the downloadable QR code.
Sources say the rules requiring vaccine certificates won’t start to lift in January, as initially scheduled under the province’s plan.
Instead, the measures will stay in place until further notice.
Ontario’s Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Kieran Moore is scheduled to provide an update on the COVID-19 situation Friday afternoon.
CTVNewsToronto.ca will stream the update live at 2 p.m.
The province has already paused any further reopening indefinitely. Earlier this week, officials said that planned lifting of capacity limits at high-risk settings where vaccination is required would be put on hold indefinitely in order to monitor trends in public health and learn more about the Omicron variant.
The reopening would have impacted food or drink establishments with dance facilities, strip clubs, sex clubs and bathhouses.
No further changes have been made to Ontario’s reopening plans.
Dr. Peter Jüni, the director of the science table, told CP24 Thursday night expressed his support for moving back to Step 3 of the province’s reopening plan considering Omicron expected to become the dominant variant in Ontario.
Step 3 included stricter capacity restrictions in settings like restaurants, bars and gyms.
"If we want to get this under control, we need to because otherwise, again, we will have trouble with our health-care system being overwhelmed. We will need to react relatively early. And capacity limits are absolutely one of the things that will need to be looked into relatively urgently. The other part is we need to really speed up and message well the rollout of the third doses of our vaccines," Jüni said.
He added that schools should be the last thing to close, even if Omicron becomes the dominant variant.
Modelling data also released this week showed that if further measures are not taken and vaccinations don’t increase, COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations in Ontario will continue to rise. The data did not take the Omicron variant into account.
“We can’t predict Omicron precisely, but it will almost certainly hit us hard and fast,” the Ontario COVID-19 Science Table said in a series of messages on Twitter. “Cases are rising, even without much Omicron yet. Our hospitals and ICUs are feeling pressure again. We need to increase vaccination and we can’t let up on public health measures.”
The data showed that even without spread from the new Omicron variant, intensive care unit occupancy will likely grow to 250-400 beds in January.
On Thursday, health officials reported the highest number of daily COVID-19 cases since late May. The province’s rolling seven-day average now stands at about 1,055, a significant increase from the previous week where the average was 851.
With files from CTV News Toronto’s Queen’s Park Bureau Chief Colin D’Mello and the Canadian Press.
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