Health experts in Ontario say the province has entered the third wave of the COVID-19 pandemic with increasing case numbers and the spread of variants of concern in multiple regions.

On March 11, Ontario’s COVID-19 Science Advisory Table said variants of COVID-19, especially the UK variant, now account for over half of Ontario’s new cases announced each day. On March 17 and 18, Ontario reported over 1,500 new cases each day.

“Continued masking and distancing are essential to controlling variants of concern,” said the advisory table’s latest COVID-19 projections report. “Our behaviour over the next few weeks is critical in determining the quality of our summer.”

They note that wave two of the pandemic has been slightly deadlier than the first wave. Ontario reported 1,848 deaths in wave one, compared to 1,900 deaths in wave two. This is likely due to the spread of COVID-19 variants, as the UK variant is believed to carry a higher risk of hospitalization and death.

“I’m going to stick with what I’ve done right from the beginning. I’m going to stick with health and science. I’m always respectful of what the science table says,” said Ontario Premier Doug Ford earlier this week during a virtual media conference in Hamilton.

“The message is the same for the people. Yes, we’re seeing vaccinations roll-out, but we can’t let our guard down for a second. I’d be very, very cautious moving forward.”

Ford adds Ontario has seen an ‘enormous response’ to their provincial online COVID-19 vaccination appointment booking system. Despite some technical issues, over 225,000 appointments were made for seniors over the age of 80, as of the morning of March 18.

“Thank you to everyone who has signed up, and to everyone else for being patient for when it becomes your turn. We’re on our way to being able to administer 150,000 doses per day across the province, and that’s just the beginning. But that all depends on one thing; the supply of vaccines.”

Reported on March 18, the United States expects to send about 1.5 million doses of the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine to Canada and 2.5 million doses to Mexico in a loan deal between the three countries. AstraZeneca has been approved for use in Canada for those over the age of 65.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has said that every Canadian who wants to get vaccinated will be able to by the end of September 2021. Only those 18 or above are able to receive a vaccine at this time.

Public health staff note that even once immunized, you must continue to practice all COVID-19 prevention measures. The number of shots given will be closely monitored throughout the immunization process to assess when it’s safe for prevention measures to be loosened.

Anyone with COVID-19 symptoms is asked to get tested and self-isolate immediately, and to stay in isolation until your test results are known.

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