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Ontario needs 'immediate circuit breaker' to blunt spread of Omicron, modelling suggests


Ontario could see intensive care capacity reach unsustainable levels in January without an "immediate circuit breaker" to blunt the spread of Omicron, modelling suggests.

Experts with the Ontario's Science Advisory Table released new data on Thursday to lay out the possible scenarios the province is facing.

According to the modelling, the Omicron variant is set to become the dominant strain in the province this week.

"Without prompt intervention, ICU occupancy could reach unsustainable levels in early January," the modelling data says.

According to the Ontario's Science Advisory Table, increasing vaccination is "not enough to slow this wave."

The experts suggest an “immediate circuit breaker,” where people in Ontario cut their contacts by at least 50 per cent and booster campaigns ramp up to 250,000 shots per day.

"High-quality masks, physical distancing indoors, improved ventilation, and increased access to rapid testing can help buy time for boosters to take effect and keep schools open," the modelling says.

Without some type of circuit breaker, the data suggests cases could exceed 10,000 per day before Christmas.

"Although vaccines are less effective against Omicron infection, boosters can substantially increase protection," the modelling says. "Even two doses likely provide strong protection against severe illness. The risk of severe illness is dramatically higher in the unvaccinated."

According to the modelling, even if Omicron is 25 per cent less severe than Delta, intensive care admissions will rise without new restrictions. 


Dr. Adalsteinn Brown, Dean of University of Toronto's Dalla Lana School of Public Health said Thursday he believes Ontario does not need to close businesses or schools during a circuit breaker.

"But it will take serious restrictions that reduce contacts," he said. "This will likely be the hardest wave of the pandemic."

Brown said that while public health measures are needed to slow the spread of Omicron, they are "not sustainable in the long run."

On Thursday morning, health officials reported 2,421 infections in Ontario, as well as nine deaths related to the disease.

The last time Ontario’s daily case count was this high was on May 15, when 2,584 cases of the novel coronavirus were reported.

As of today, 165 people are in intensive care units with the virus -- 11 more than the previous day.

The government says there are 600 intensive care beds available in Ontario. 

Nearly 500 additional intensive care beds are also available for surge capacity if required, the government says.

On Wednesday, Premier Doug Ford reintroduced a 50-per-cent crowd limit in venues with a capacity of more than 1,000, but declined to limit occupancy at restaurants and bars or introduce stricter limits for social gatherings.

He also announced that all adults will be able to book a booster starting Monday, provided it's been at least three months since they received their second dose.

A spokesperson for Health Minister Christine Elliott said Wednesday's additional public health measures would not have been factored into these modelling numbers.

"Today's modelling affirms that the best defence against the highly-transmissible Omicron variant is dramatically accelerating the rollout of booster shots," Alexandra Hilkene said.

"The Chief Medical Officer of Health will continue to review data and evidence and act as necessary to limit transmission and protect the health and safety of Ontarians." Top Stories

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