By Darren Lum
Whatever the new normal will be we’re far from it.
Omicron and a reactive provincial government instead of a pro-active one has contributed to that.
In light of the provincial government’s announcement on Monday of a temporary return to modified Step Two of the Roadmap to Reopen life is definitely resembling last year with students learning online, the closure of restaurants and bars, except for takeout, capacity limits at five people indoors, 10 outdoors, and 50 per cent in shopping malls and grocery stores, and a pause to non-emergency surgeries. With the exception of schools, which are facing a two-week delay (to return Jan. 17), these measures will be in place for 21 days, ending on Jan. 26.
Even before the announcement, the public’s access to tests was limited – students were sent home with rapid tests to start the holidays. For those wanting vaccinations, there were challenges with procurement, whether with registration, or delays and access for appointments. As of Sunday night, parents were left waiting on the province on when they could send children back to school and were left deliberating between in-person or online learning. It’s a lot of deja vu for a pandemic that has persisted for two years. I feel like the provincial government is always playing catch-up.
Granted, Omicron wasn’t really part of the conversation a couple of months ago. It’s contagiousness can’t be ignored. And yet it was. It didn’t just come out of the blue. Omicron was first detected in the province on Nov. 28 and there were countries around the world confirming cases. Ontario’s top COVID-19 scientists recommended a “circuit breaker” to slow down the surge of cases on Dec. 17. Doug Ford’s cabinet didn’t meet until Jan. 2, which resulted in the announcement on Monday. Why wait for what has already happened in other places? It’s an unsettling trend we’ve all seen.
Despite a small percentage of naysayers, vaccinations are our way out. Ontario citizens have done their part with close to 11.5 million people (more than five years old) receiving two doses.
Although the current scenario with the Omicron variant is concerning, it isn’t without hope when examining what is happening in other countries. This variant has shown in preliminary studies to be a milder disease compared to the other variants. One or two doses doesn’t seem to stop infection. However, it has provided protection against severe illness.
In South Africa, where scientists first alerted the world about the Omicron variant, case counts are falling and the rate of hospitalizations are lower than its other three waves. It’s reported for the week ending Dec. 25 there were 89,781 confirmed infections, which is down from 127,753 the week before. There is a belief they are past its potential peak. So, there is light at the end of the tunnel.
We have always needed a strong leader, but it’s clear what happens without one after the last two years, which has led to a confused public looking for answers, as far as singular direction and implementation of plans. Let’s hope this provincial action isn’t too late and doesn’t cost us too much. We have done it before and can do it again. But why?
It’s clear much of the population was done with the pandemic, but clearly the pandemic wasn’t done with us.