These 3 Things Will Help Flatten The Omicron Curve, Says Head Of Ontario's Science Table

Lifting restrictions will lead to a "flare-up."

Toronto Associate Editor
These 3 Things Will Help Flatten The Omicron Curve, Says Head Of Ontario's Science Table

As Ontario continues its battle with the Omicron variant, with recent gathering limits and capacity restrictions in effect, many have been left wondering what can help us get through this wave quicker.

Narcity spoke with Dr. Peter Jüni, the scientific director of Ontario's COVID-19 Science Advisory Table, who offered up some insight on how Ontario can flatten the curve of the highly transmissible Omicron variant and ease the strain on our health care system.

According to Jüni, there are three things to be done in order to get out of the current wave quickly.

"One is our decreased contacts — in combination with the public health measures and the behaviour of people, that will be tremendously important," Jüni said.

As of January 5, the Ford government trimmed social gathering sizes down to five people indoors and 10 people outdoors in response to the transmissibility of the Omicron variant. On top of that, gyms and indoor dining have been shut down to the public, too.

"When we still could sort of assess our case counts, what we saw was that, on average, an infected person would cause an additional two infections," the scientific director said. "That's not rocket science. This means if we reduce our contact path, then an infected person, on average, will infect just one additional person, and this means that we start to see flatline of our case counts."

"The second is the rapid rollout of third doses, which will give us additional protection," Jüni said.

Since December 20, all Ontarians 18 years and older have been eligible to book an appointment for their third dose. Fourth doses have even become available to more vulnerable populations, too.

Jüni, however, thinks the province needs to keep going with its vaccination efforts when it comes to children aged 5 to 11 years old. Based on the provincial government's current data, 50% of this age group has received their first dose of COVID-19 vaccine, while only 7% are fully vaccinated.

The last thing that will help flatten the curve concerns the virus itself.

"The third is, of course, the rapid spread of the virus will in itself contribute to the immunity of the population," Jüni said.

"These three aspects together will hopefully relatively soon result in a flattening of the curve."

So, even though the province doesn't look at COVID-19 case counts as an indicator of the current epidemiological situation, Jüni says that after Ontario sees the curve begin to flatten, a week to 10 days later the province will see the effects on hospital admissions and subsequently on ICU occupancy.

But, as soon as restrictions lift, Jüni predicts case counts will immediately "flare up again."

"So what we need to do is we need to ride out this wave in a way that keeps being manageable for the health care system. At the end of the wave, nearly everybody [...] will have reached some sort of immunity — either through vaccination, through infection or a combination of the two," Jüni said.

"That's what will change the face of this pandemic. That's what will slow down the challenges we're having with less threats for the health care system."

As it stands, Ontario is set to lift the current restrictions on January 26, although Ontario's chief medical officer of health said he "can't guarantee" that they won't be extended.

This interview has been condensed and edited for clarity.

Health Canada has a robust website with all the latest information on COVID-19 vaccines and can answer any questions you may have.

This article’s cover image was used for illustrative purposes only.

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