A motion to extend all emergency health orders in the province was tabled by Solicitor General Sylvia Jones in Queen’s Park on November 23. Originally set to expire on December 1, the vote means that the Ontario government now has the power to extend them until at least March 28, 2022.
There are currently 28 orders under the Reopening Ontario Act (ROA), and they must be extended in 30-day increments after the original December 1 deadline expires. Although it is possible that the orders may be allowed to expire sooner, Ontario has put forth a comprehensive plan on how they expect things to progress.
Capacity limits on indoor, high-risk settings with proof of vaccination were supposed to be lifted on November 15. This step was delayed due to an increase in COVID-19 cases, as current modelling from Ontario’s COVID-19 Science Advisory Table predicts an average of 700 new cases per week by the end of November.
The lifting of capacity limits was thus postponed by 28 days and will be revisited closer to the new date of December 13. The next step for lifting capacity limits everywhere may also be delayed from its current scheduled date of January 17, 2022. Assuming COVID cases are brought back down, lifting proof of vaccination requirements in high-risk settings is scheduled for February 7, and by March 28, Ontario plans to lift all remaining public health measures in place, including mask requirements.
This all hinges on the expectation that cases will continue to go down, which may be thwarted by the new Omicron variant. Discovered at Dr. Angelique Coetzee’s private clinic in South Africa, the variant is characterized by two days of severe fatigue accompanied by head and body aches. Oxygen levels remain at acceptable levels, other symptoms usually attributed to COVID are much milder, and the loss of taste and smell which usually signals a COVID case are notably absent.
Coetzee noted that so far the variant has only appeared in people under 40, and under half of them were unvaccinated. There are two confirmed cases of the Omicron variant in Ottawa.
The Eastern Ontario Health Unit (EOHU) has issued a press brief urging people to get their second dose of COVID vaccine, if they haven’t already. Just like with other COVID variants, the double vaccination helps fight off the virus and lessens the symptoms. Third doses are still being distributed and will continue to move down through all age groups.