Ontario, Canada’s most populous province with a population of 14 million, announced on Tuesday to extend its pause of the reopening plan indefinitely as COVID-19 cases continue to rise.
The Ontario government said it will continue to monitor trends in public health and learn more about the Omicron variant.
At least 13 cases of the Omicron variant have reportedly been confirmed so far in Ontario. Canadian health officials and experts have warned for weeks that cases would increase in the winter months as more people gather indoors.
Ontario announced the pause for at least 28 days on Nov. 10 due to an increase of COVID-19 daily cases. The province reported 928 new cases of COVID-19 on Tuesday.
Its seven-day average of daily new cases is up to 975, a level not seen since the decline of the third wave in early June.
With 26,136 tests processed since Monday, Ontario’s COVID-19 positivity rate stands at 3.8 percent, the highest level reported since May 31 when it hit 4.3 percent.
However, in the best-case scenario, experts say that if new health measures are implemented and 30 percent of children get vaccinated before December ends, COVID-19 case counts will start to drop in mid-January from 1,000 per day. ICU cases are also expected to start dropping in this scenario.
The modeling data also show that people who are unvaccinated have a five-fold higher risk of symptomatic COVID-19 disease, a 13-fold higher risk of being in the hospital and 23-fold higher risk of being in the ICU compared to the fully vaccinated.
Canadian health experts said that the spread of the Omicron variant will likely drive COVID-19 cases to increase in the country.