Ontario to reopen borders with Quebec, Manitoba as 2nd dose bookings open in delta hot spots

Ontario will reopen its borders with Quebec and Manitoba this week, the government announced Monday, as the province logged 447 new cases of COVID-19.

Solicitor General Sylvia Jones said in a statement that Ontario will not extend the order that restricted non-essential travel between the provinces. It is set to expire at 12:01 a.m. ET on Wednesday.

Those entering Ontario “must continue to follow the public health measures in place in the province,” Jones said.

Limits on travel have been in place since April 19, when the third wave of the pandemic was at its peak in Ontario.

4 more COVID-linked deaths

Today’s case count is down from last Monday, when the province logged 525 new infections. 

It comes as labs completed just 13,588 tests, the fewest on a single day in more than a year, and Public Health Ontario reported a province positivity rate of 2.8 per cent — the lowest on a Monday since mid-October. 

Because testing levels are cyclical in Ontario, its best to compare the same days of the week.

Last Monday, the province saw a 3.6 per cent positivity rate on 15,177 total tests, suggesting that the important indicator continues to decline week over week.

The seven-day average of daily cases fell to 503, a level not seen in the province since late September 2020.

The number of total active infections stands at about 5,374. During the height of the third wave of the pandemic, there were nearly 43,000 active cases in the province.

That said, Ontario stops counting an infection as “active” after two weeks. That means the figure does not necessarily reflect the real number of people who are experiencing COVID-related symptoms.

As of Sunday, there were 409 people with COVID-related illnesses being treated in intensive care units. Of those, 268 needed a ventilator to breathe.

Notably, this morning Ontario reported more COVID-19 patients in ICUs than the total number of patients in hospitals. That’s because some hospitals do not submit results from their daily censuses on the weekends, meaning the total figure reported on Mondays is almost always an underrepresentation of the actual number. 

The additional deaths push the official toll to 8,961. The seven-day average of deaths declined to roughly 13.

Vaccine rollout ahead of schedule

Public health units collectively administered another 135,574 doses of COVID-19 vaccines yesterday, the most-ever on a Sunday. 

About 64.1 per cent of Ontario’s total population has now had at least one dose, while 14.6 per cent of residents aged 12 and older have received both shots.

Importantly, more than 74 per cent of Ontarians 18 and above have gotten a first shot — above the 70 per cent threshold the government has set as a main criterion for moving into Phase 2 of the province’s reopening plan.

Another key benchmark is at least 20 per cent of adults fully immunized against the illness. Given the current trajectory of second doses — which have begun to outpace doses being used for first shots — Ontario could reach the target by the end of this week.

The province entered Phase 1 of the reopening plan on June 11. It is currently scheduled to remain in Phase 1 until at least July 2.

Meanwhile, more Ontarians will be able to book an accelerated second dose of COVID-19 vaccine starting today.

Ontario anticipates that more than four million doses of COVID-19 vaccines will have arrived throughout June, with millions more scheduled to come in July. (Evan Mitsui/CBC)

Those who received a first shot of the AstraZeneca vaccine can now book their second after eight weeks. The Ontario government had previously set a minimum wait time of 12 weeks for people who took a first dose of AstraZeneca.

They can choose whether to get a second dose of AstraZeneca, or switch to an mRNA vaccine made by Pfizer or Moderna.

Similarly, people who live in one of seven regions where the delta variant of COVID-19 is spreading and who received their first shot on or before May 9 can also now make an appointment for their second dose.

The strategy is focused on Toronto, Peel, Halton, Porcupine, Waterloo, York and Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph.

Ontario’s COVID-19 Science Advisory Table estimates that the delta variant of concern — first identified in India and thought to be more transmissible than previous variants and more resilient against currently available vaccines — accounts for about 40 per cent of all new cases in the province.

Limited appointments

On social media, people in Peel reported long wait times and difficulty finding appointments for a second shot within the region, with the province’s central booking system pointing them to available spots in neighbouring areas.

Speaking at Queen’s Park, Health Minister Christine Elliott conceded that a limited number of appointments were available and urged residents to try again. 

She said she expects more spots to open up later today or at some point this week.

While the province has moved up the chance to book a second shot for some in the delta variant hot spots, it opted not to allocate additional doses to the same public health units. 

Playing down concerns about demand outstripping supply in places like Peel, Elliott said last week that health units could receive extra vaccines once they use up what is on hand.

Return-to-play plan for pro and elite amateur sports leagues

Also today, the province announced a return-to-play plan for professional and elite amateur leagues allowing them to hold non-contact practice and dry-land training.

Teams and leagues will be allowed to resume games as soon as August, although there is currently no plan to allow spectators.

The Canadian Football League and Ontario Hockey League are the most affected by the decision, having missed an entire season because of the novel coronavirus pandemic.

The Hamilton Tiger-Cats, Toronto Argonauts, and Ottawa Redblacks all have training camps scheduled to begin in early July

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