Ontario residents can expect some COVID-19 restrictions to be lifted sooner rather than later, but chief medical officer of health Dr. Kieran Moore said Thursday he won't be giving in to any demands from protesters.
He said the plan is to remove more pandemic restrictions on Feb. 21 and again on March 14.
"I hope all Ontarians are watching the data as we are. It is showing a remarkable and rapid decline in risks to hospitalizations and risks to being admitted to intensive care units," Moore told reporters, adding that he does not follow the news that often.
"Our approach in Ontario has always been to follow data and that data is showing very positive trends. We will always follow the data. No public health measures should be in place any longer than it has to be."
Moore added that public health measures in Ontario are to be removed in a timely, evidence-based and science-driven manner. Moore said the fact that most Ontarians are taking precautions, washing their hands, getting second and third vaccination doses is paying off. He said all the public health metrics "are improving dramatically".
Moore said it means that masking and vaccination mandates will continue for the time being but added Ontario is in a good situation to reconsider those requirements and more discussions on that are likely to be held soon.
Moore was also asked why Ontario has to wait until Feb. 21 to lift more restrictions when Alberta is already removing COVID restrictions. Moore told reporters that the phased approach in Ontario has worked and has resulted in fewer people getting sick and being hospitalized.
"I am focused on Ontario and I think our plan is reasonable. So if you recall, we've built the date for Feb. 21 of reopening that date and it may be reviewed next week, given the significant improvements in all of the key metrics in Ontario," said Moore.
He added that March 14 is the next date for easing restrictions and will see the opening of mass gathering events.
"I think, given the rapid decline in all our case counts, we will follow Ontario data. We will make Ontario-based plans. We will continue to follow our gradual phased approach. It has worked so well for us," Moore said.
He added that the worst of the Omicron variant has passed.
“We can now see that Omicron peak is behind us. This is thanks to the collective efforts of Ontarians following the public health measures,” said Moore.
“It's now time that we start focusing on resuming certain procedures in our health system, as well as the other aspects of our society that improve our social and well being,” he said.
Moore added that schools will soon be able to include contact sports without masks and certain music classes that include choirs and wind instruments.
Len Gillis is a Local Journalism Initiative reporter at Sudbury.com. The Local Journalism Initiative is made possible with funding from the federal government.