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Non-Urgent Procedures on Pause as Ontario Faces COVID Surge

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Ontario (Canada) is shifting schools online while temporarily shutting gyms and indoor dining facilities and suspending non-urgent medical procedures due to record-high case counts, which could overwhelm Ontario’s health care system, according to health officials from the public sector.

Premier Doug Ford announced the changes during a news conference Monday. The premier was joined by his ministers of education, health, finance, and Ontario’s chief medical officer of health and the CEO of Ontario Health.

The new protocols are part of a revised version of Step Two of the provincial Roadmap to Reopen, which was first implemented earlier in the year.

“Our public health experts tell us we could see hundreds of thousands of cases every day,” Ford said of the ongoing surge of new COVID-19 cases caused by the Omicron variant.

Ford expressed that this could lead to hospitals running out of beds, leaving them thousands short.

“If we don’t do everything possible to get this variant under control, the results could be catastrophic. It is a risk I cannot take.”

The province has announced that all privately and publicly funded schools will transition to remote learning beginning January 5 through January 17.

The new restrictions that were announced today also include:

Indoor dining at restaurants and bars closed.    Only outdoor dining, takeout, drive-through, and delivery are permitted.    Social gathering limits are reduced to five people indoors and ten people outdoors.    Retail stores, malls, public libraries, and personal care services are limited to 50 percent capacity.    Saunas, steam rooms, and oxygen bars closed.    Capacity at weddings, funerals, and religious services is limited to 50 percent capacity per room.    Outdoor services must have a two-meter distance between all attendees.    Employees must work remotely unless their work requires them to be on site.    Gyms and other indoor recreational sports facilities closed, except athletes training for the Olympics and Paralympics and specific professional and elite sports leagues.    Outdoor facilities are permitted but with a 50 percent capacity limit on spectators.    Museums, galleries, zoos, science centers, historical sites, amusement parks, festivals, and other attractions are closed.    Outdoor establishments are allowed with restrictions and capacity limits.    Indoor meeting and event spaces are closed with limited exceptions, except those with outdoor spaces, which can operate with restrictions.

The new protocols will take effect Wednesday, January 5 at 12:01 a.m.

New modeling by Public Health Ontario reveals that the Omicron variant may eventually overwhelm the entire health system.

According to the forecast, hospitalizations are likely to increase by the end of this month. However, health officials have noted that the tightening of public health policies will reduce the speed of the spread of Omicron.

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