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Pandemic within a pandemic : Expert sounds the alarm over variants in Ontario

Pandemic within a pandemic : Expert sounds the alarm over variants in Ontario
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TORONTO -- A new status report by Ontario’s COVID-19 Science Advisory Table has found that 42 per cent of Ontario’s COVID-19 cases are variants of concern.

The science table is a group of science and health system experts who monitor, gather evidence and provide guidance on the COVID-19 pandemic in Ontario. It is an independent group hosted by the University of Toronto’s Dalla Lana School of Public health.

The findings reveal that cases of the original strain of novel coronavirus are dropping while new variants of concerncases are on the rise.

According to the graphs by the Ontario COVID-19 Science Advisory Table, new variant cases began to rise in earnest mid-February, while cases of the original virus began dropping in mid-January. It also shows that the effective reproduction number (the number of new cases caused per one infected person) is currently 1.24 for the new variants, while the original has dropped to 0.9.

Dr. Peter Juni, director of the Ontario COVID-19 Science Advisory Table, told CTV News Channel that Ontarians once again need to be on high alert until everyone is vaccinated.

“It’s not long anymore, we’re in this race with the vaccine, we can do that, but we just need to be alert now,” he saidon Thursday.

As Ontario faces a third wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, Juni said that the numbers can be confusing because they’re going down, but as cases of the old variant decrease, cases of the new variants increase.

“We see that we keep having the old variant under control, cases are plummeting, that’s all good, but the problem is we don’t have the new ones under control; therefore, we start to talk about a pandemic within the pandemic,” he said.

The dominant variant is the B.1.1.7 variant that was originally discovered in the U.K. and Juni said its increased mortality is a direct result of it being more contagious.

“If you get infected, you have an average, we don’t know exactly, but we pinpoint it to roughly 30 to 60 per cent increase in mortality rates,” he said.

The key to avoiding a third wave is down to further restrictions, according to Juni.

“It’s extremely unlikely that we will make it with just the vaccines, we don’t have enough time,” said Juni. “We need once more firmer restrictions, firmer than before actually.”

While extended restrictions and lockdowns wouldn’t curry favour with many Ontarians, Juni says this could be the last time we have to do so.

“If this works out well with the vaccines, there’s one guarantee. If we lockdown once more, it will be the last time that we do that. There won’t be any more lockdowns after that,” he said.

For now, the key to keeping a third wave at bay is to stay alert, tighten restrictions, vaccinate as quickly as possible and keep the curve flat, Juni said.
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