TORONTO -- Peel Region’s top public health official says that a “potential fourth wave is brewing right now” due to the spread of the Delta variant and he is cautioning residents not to treat the lifting of some public health restrictions later this week as a “full return to normal.”

Medical Officer of Health Dr. Lawrence Loh made the comments during a briefing at Brampton city hall on Wednesday.

He said that while case counts and hospitalization numbers across Peel are the lowest that they have been since the fall, the Delta variant first detected in India is spreading widely in the community and is likely weeks away from becoming the dominant strain.

That, in turn, has led to some concerns about a potential resurgence in cases among partially vaccinated individuals given research out of the United Kingdom that has suggested that one dose may be less effective against the new strain than it is against the B.1.1.7 “Alpha” variant, which is currently dominant.

In Peel officials have indicated that about 10 per cent of confirmed cases of the Delta variant have involved partially vaccinated individuals, though it is unclear how many of those people contracted the virus in the first 14 days after their immunization before their body was able to mount a sufficient immune response.

“On Friday I want to remind our residents that these first steps to reopening are not a full return to normal. We do have high first dose coverage but we have low second dose coverage and the science shows that only 33 to 50 per cent protection is afforded against the Delta variant with one dose. That protection may not be enough to forestall a resurgence if we reopen and re-engage too quickly,” Loh warned. “You can start to meet with people outside your home but continue to limit your contact and ensure that you’re following precautions.”

Ontario will enter the first step in its reopening plan as of 12:01 a.m. on Friday, allowing retail stores to reopen at 15 per cent capacity and bars and restaurants to serve customers on their patios.

Loh did indicate that he believes Peel is ready for a partial reopening but he said that residents must remember that the Delta variant growing in the community “ahead of the rest of the province” and “will continue to grow.”

In fact, Loh said that the variant likely accounts for 30 to 35 per cent of all new cases in Peel Region already and is increasingly being observed in workplace outbreaks.

“The potential fourth wave is brewing right now and that's why I think you've heard myself and Mayor (Patrick) Brown really pointing to the advice that we've received from the science table to accelerate second doses in communities that are seeing Delta variant activity, such as ours,” he said.

Brown calls on province to ramp up vaccine supply

Back in May the province directed 50 per cent of its vaccine supply to hot spot communities such as Peel but it has not yet committed to a similar strategy for second doses in communities experiencing a rise in Delta variant cases, despite calls from its own science advisory table to do so.

During Wednesday’s briefing, Brampton Mayor Patrick Brown said that the average age of an essential worker in Brampton is 36, meaning most of them are unlikely to be currently eligible for a second dose.

He said that if the doesn’t do something to increase supply to hot spots like Peel it could potentially “slow down our ability to really get back to normal” in communities across Ontario.

“The lessons from the first three waves as we know were the spread starts in busy factories and we have tons of them in Peel Region, crowded busy factories that are critical to Canada's supply chain, and I would implore the provincial government to make sure we have second doses for those essential workers,” he said.