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Ontario is extending a province-wide lockdown for another two weeks because the province’s health system remains under stress, despite a recent drop in new cases.
“The situation is slowly trending in a better direction. Make no mistake: we’re not out of the woods yet,” Premier Doug Ford said in a news conference. “Our hospitals are still under immense pressure. The spread of variants remains a major concern so we must stay vigilant.”
The emergency order, which was extended to June 2, requires everyone to remain at home except for exercise, health care, work that can’t be done remotely and limited shopping such as groceries. While cases have been falling in Canada’s most populous province, they remain well above the 1,000-per-day level health officials would like to see before easing restrictions.
Hospitalizations and intensive-care admissions, while also off their peak, remain far above levels seen during the second wave, the government said.
Ontario’s third wave has hit harder that the previous two, with intensive care units swamped and patients transported across the province to receive care. Difficulty securing sufficient vaccine supply, vaccine hesitancy and, more recently, conflicting information about who can safely take the AstraZeneca Plc shot have contributed to the problems.
The province recorded 2,759 new cases of COVID-19 in the past 24 hours. Last week -- May 2 to 8 -- the case rate fell 14.8 per cent, the government said in a statement. Between May 5 and May 12, the number of virus patients in Ontario ICUs fell to 776 from 877.
On Tuesday, the province said it would stop using its remaining AstraZeneca supplies for first doses and would consider whether it’s better to allow people who already received one Astra shot to get a second -- or whether it’s better to give them an mRNA vaccine produced by Pfizer Inc. or Moderna Inc. instead.
That decision was made because of a higher prevalence of blood clotting cases in Ontario in recent days. Some other Canadian provinces including Alberta and Quebec have also paused or restricted use of the AstraZeneca vaccine.
Ontario will begin preparing to vaccinate youth between 12 and 17 with the Pfizer vaccine during this time, the government said.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said this week Canadians could be hopeful for a “one-dose summer,” with limited outdoor activities like barbecues and picnics if numbers continue to trend down. Ford echoed those sentiments Thursday.
“My goal is to have the most normal July and August possible,” he said, noting that will not include large concerts or sporting events. “If we manage the next few weeks properly, I believe that we can have things in a very good place this summer.”
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