As cases of COVID-19 and variants continue their upward trajectory, the region’s top medical officer says he’s not optimistic that current restrictions will be enough to prevent hospitals and intensive care units from being overwhelmed.
Dr. Mustafa Hirji, the region’s acting medical officer of health, says any further restrictions should be for the entire Golden Horseshoe. He indicated with the “very sharp upwards trend,” especially of variants, which reproduce quickly, that may be necessary for the next couple of months, to buy time for more people to be vaccinated.
“If we stay our course, the sharp increase will continue. The only hope of flattening it is reducing social interaction,” he says, adding that “that current government decisions that are being made by the province,” are not enough to reverse the trend.
It is social activity which is causing the current spike of infection, he says.
With the numbers of cases caused by community spread, rather than by outbreaks in long-term care homes as they were earlier in the pandemic, there are fewer people in the 80-plus group becoming ill.
When there is a case in long-term care, it tends to just “fizzle,” he says, due to the high number of residents who are vaccinated.
While the majority of variant cases are the U.K. strain, Hirji says he’s concerned about the P1 variant from Brazil, which seems to transmit the quickest, cause the most serious illnesses, and against which vaccines are the least effective. It has increased 30 per cent in cases across the province in just two days.
There were 132 new COVID-19 cases reported over the weekend in Niagara, and Hamilton was placed in grey-lockdown zone Monday. We already know people travel from Hamilton to Niagara, says Hirji, and he fears the number of visitors might increase and bring more cases of COVID with them.
As cases increase, so does the number of people in hospital and in intensive care units. Hamilton may begin sending patients to Niagara hospitals, if its system becomes overwhelmed, said Hirji.
Toronto hospitals are already sending patients to hospitals as far aways as Kingston, and Toronto’s Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre is in the process of setting up a mobile field hospital in its parking lot, a process that began early in March. The tents, which will be able to handle up to 100 patients, are expected to be ready to receive patients in early April.
The sight of the hospital tents across the parking lot reflects the level of fear over what the third wave could bring, says Hirji.