TORONTO -- Ontario Premier Doug Ford said a “more challenging” and “more complicated” second wave of COVID-19 is on its way as he announced the government’s first part of a fall preparedness plan on Tuesday.

“With the number of cases on the rise, it’s clear that the next wave it will come at us harder than the last one. It will be more challenging than before because the flu season is starting soon and people are heading indoors again,” Ford said during an afternoon news conference held at Queen’s Park.

The first pillar of the province’s plan to tackle the spread of the novel coronavirus heading into the colder months is implementing a $70 million flu shot campaign.

Ford said this campaign is the largest in the province’s history and will help prepare the health-care system for a second wave of the disease.

“The flu shot helps reduce visits to our emergency rooms and doctor’s offices during the season and this will help with keeping capacity in our health-care system,” the premier said. “We need to ensure our hospitals are not overwhelmed by the next wave of COVID-19."

"Preparing for the second wave is our top priority.”

According to Ford, the province has ordered 5.1 million doses of this year’s flu vaccine and is continuing to work to order more. That is 700,000 more doses than the approximate amount administered last year.

“Anyone who wants a flu shot can get one and I encourage everyone to please get their flu shot this year. It’s absolutely critical. It’s the best way to protect you and your family because the next few months will be critical,” Ford said.

“We know that a second wave is coming, we know that it will be more complicated than the first wave, we know it will be more challenging on the system, what we don’t know is how bad it will be, how hard we will get hit because that is up to all of us, we all have a part to play and it starts with everyone getting their flu shot this year.”

Flu shots are available each year to Ontario residents over the age of six months through their primary health-care provider’s office and public health units. The vaccine is also available to residents over the age of five at participating pharmacies.

High-dose flu shots will be available to seniors at their primary health-care provider’s office. As well, it will be available at participating pharmacies for the first time in the province’s history.

The first batch of the flu vaccine is expected to arrive in Ontario next week, officials said on Tuesday.

The high-dose vaccine will be distributed to the province's most vulnerable residents first and then the regular flu shot will be available “very shortly thereafter” to the general population. The high-dose vaccine will be prioritized at the province’s long-term care homes, retirement homes and hospitals.

More details on Ontario's fall plan coming soon

Speaking alongside Ford on Tuesday, Ontario Health Minister Christine Elliott added that the rest of province’s fall preparedness plan will be unveiled in the “next several days.”

“We do want Ontarians to receive the full picture and that is why we are going to take several days to reveal each aspect of it because it is a very integrated, complex and comprehensive plan,” she said.

The health minister said the plan focuses on six “key areas.”

  • Maintaining public health measures, including expanding testing for the novel coronavirus and contact tracing
  • Implementing the largest flu immunization campaign in the province’s history
  • Quickly identifying, managing and preventing outbreaks of the disease
  • Accelerating efforts to reduce health service backlogs
  • Preparing the province for surges in COVID-19 cases
  • Recruiting, retaining, training, and supporting health-care workers

Ontario has been seeing an upward trend in case counts over the past few weeks. The province recorded 478 new cases of COVID-19 on Tuesday, which is the highest single-day increase since May 2 when 511 infections were reported.

In response to the climbing case counts, over the weekend the province slashed the number of people who can attend social gatherings. Currently, 10 people can gather indoors and 25 can gather outdoors. Social distancing must be maintained with those outside of your 10-person social circle at these gatherings, according to the province’s safety measures.

Ontario also put a pause on any further steps in its reopening plan at the beginning of the months citing the rise in infections.