Ontario Science Table Official Says The 'Pandemic Is Not Over' & Reopening Should Be Paused

Ontario's science table also dropped its latest COVID-19 projections for the province.

Toronto Associate Editor
Ontario Science Table Official Says The 'Pandemic Is Not Over' & Reopening Should Be Paused

The pandemic isn't over in Ontario just yet and head of Ontario's Science Advisory Table Dr. Peter Juni has told Narcity that some measures may need some "fine-tuning."

Juni explained to Narcity that while Ontario has done really well in regards to its reopening plan and COVID-19 prevention health measures (such as masking, vaccine roll-out, and its QR code vaccine certificates), Ontarians still need to actively adhere to them.

"I think the realization needs to be that pandemic is not over now," he told Narcity. "So we shouldn't, like many other places in the world, pretend it's over, and then wake up when it's too late."

"What we experience from the science table is, episodically, people are perhaps less stringent with masking than before indoors [and] it needs to go back to where we were," Juni said. "Some restaurants, and perhaps also other venues, are cutting corners with vaccine certificates — a no-go — we need to have all of that implemented carefully."

Ontario's reopening should be paused

On November 12, the Science Advisory Table released its projections for how the COVID-19 pandemic will look in Ontario in the next few months, and how colder weather pushing Ontarians to spend more time indoors and the lifting of capacity limits could contribute to a continuous rise in cases.

Ontario COVID-19 Science Advisory Table

Ontario's Science Advisory Table advises that a "deliberate pause on re-opening is the right decision at this time." All of its projections are rooted in no further reopening and with the continuation of current public health measures.

Ontario just made the call to pause lifting capacity limits at high-risk venues like nightclubs, strip clubs, and bathhouses due to the number of active COVID-19 cases steadily growing across the province.

On November 9, Health Minister Christine Elliott announced that more local public health regions could independently make the decisions to reimpose health measures as Ontario moves into winter, and Sudbury is one of the first to have already done that for its area.

Juni told Narcity that pausing other parts of Ontario's reopening plan could still likely happen as the province continues into the colder months.

"I always interpreted this as our commitment to continue until the dates that we're given, meaning, the first look into whether vaccines certificates are still necessary would be in January and the first look into whether masks are still necessary would be in March," Juni explained. "That's the first look. So I would personally bet that both interventions will continue longer than that. So don't get your hopes up and listen carefully."

Capacity limits should be "fine-tuned"

The science table's scientific director added that it would largely depend on the epidemiological situation Ontario is in at the time certain measures are set to be lifted.

In order to mitigate the possibility of the COVID-19 situation becoming worse in the winter, Juni suggested a few things that the government could implement during that period of time.

"I think the third dose vaccine rollout will be important, an emphasis on ventilation will be important, that you really get your space as ventilated as well as possible," Juni said. "And then [the] fine-tuning of capacity limits, reinforcing consistent use of vaccine certificates, encouraging [the] consistent use of masks in venues such as sports arenas [...] and we can get a lot better."

"So if we just use the existing tools consistently, we will get a lot of bang for the buck, and basically have a reopening of society with few, relatively pain-free, measures," Juni continued. "So it's just a mask and a certificate, it's not more. A little bit of regulation with the capacity limits, plus, hopefully, a very successful vaccine rollout in the five to 11-year-olds, plus in the age groups from 35 years upwards, [and] hopefully, then, successful vaccine rollout for third doses in 2022."

This interview has been condensed and edited for clarity.

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

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

Alex Arsenych
Toronto Associate Editor
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