Ontario, March 25: Premier Doug Ford says that he is “confident” that the healthcare system can withstand an uptick in COVID-19 transmission as the province continues to push forward with its plans to lift all remaining restrictions amid what could be the beginning of another wave of the pandemic.
Premier Doug Ford said he doesn’t believe Ontario lifted COVID-19 restrictions too early, despite a recent uptick in hospitalizations and other indications the virus is spreading quickly.
“I don’t think so, considering we were one of the last in North America,” Ford told reporters in Ottawa when asked if the province ended restrictions too soon.
“I’ve been accused of being the most cautious leader in North America. Everyone else in the whole country has taken their masks off.”
Ford also suggested he doesn’t think the government would have to reintroduce COVID-19 restrictions if the numbers surge as they did in previous waves.
He also suggested that the Ontario government is still committed to lifting the remaining public health restrictions by the end of April, including the mask mandate that remains in place for high-risk settings.
The Ontario government lifted masking rules in most places on Monday, despite some public health experts suggesting they should remain in place for a few more weeks. The province has also lifted all capacity limits.
Quebec’s mask mandate remains in place, although it has lifted masking requirements in schools. Prince Edward Island also requires masks, which Ford mentioned later in the news conference.
Health Minister Christine Elliott added that the government expected an uptick in COVID-19 wastewater data, which has been reported in recent weeks, as restrictions lifted.
Ford brushed aside suggestions on Friday that his government acted too quickly to lift restrictions, telling reporters that “everyone else in the whole country has taken their masks off” and that Ontario actually lifted its mandate after many other provinces.
As for an expected uptick in COVID transmission, Ford pointed to an increased availability of Pfizer’s Paxlovid pill as one of the things that is giving him confidence in the healthcare system’s ability to manage a rise in transmission.
He said that Ontario has also made investments that will allow it to “ramp up” to 3,000 ICU beds, if need be.