Ontario in grip of second Covid-19 wave that will be 'worse than first', officials say

By Leyland Cecco

Ontario has set a new record for daily coronavirus cases, as the province officially entered its second wave of Covid-19, and officials warned that it will be “worse than the first”.

Ontario logged 700 new Covid-19 infections on Monday – well above the previous highest daily total of 640 on 24 April – as the premier, Doug Ford, warned residents to expect a “more complex” and “more complicated” surge of the virus in the coming weeks.

“We know it will be worse than the first wave, but we don’t know how bad the second wave will be,” said Ford. “Our collective actions will determine if we face a wave or a tsunami.”

Ford called Monday’s numbers in Canada’s most populous province “deeply concerning” and pleaded for residents to download the country’s Covid-19 alert application.

New modeling from health officials suggests the province will hit a peak around mid-October, with new cases likely to exceed 1,000 a day, unless drastic action is taken by local and provincial governments.

The surge is a bitter turn for the province, which was able to get new daily infections below 100 earlier in the summer. But a gradual reopening – which eased restrictions on social gatherings and permitted indoor dining and drinking – has eroded many of the hard-won gains.

On Monday Ontario also reported 36 new cases in schools, 27 infections among students. Of Ontario’s 4,828 publicly funded schools, officials have reported infections at 224 locations.

As public health officials grappled with the grim new figures, the president of Ontario’s hospital association called on the government to move swiftly in implementing new restrictions, including closing non-essential locations like gyms and movie theatres.

“We can no longer retain a false sense of security and belief that this will not happen to us,” Anthony Dale said in a statement. “At this rate, Ontario hospitals are facing a direct threat to their ability to continue to delivering the highest quality of care to Ontarians.”

Last week, Ontario reduced operating hours for bars and restaurants and ordered all strip clubs closed after a string of outbreaks.

“The numbers you will see this week were predictable, were predicted, and could have been prevented. It is very important to remember how we got here,” tweeted epidemiologist Dr David Fisman, calling on the Ford government to take new measures.

In neighbouring Quebec, the province recorded 750 new cases. The health minister, Christian Dube, called the situation in urban centres “very worrying” and warned that both Montreal and Quebec City would be designated as “red zones” later on Monday – the province’s highest alert level.

Justin Trudeau’s Liberal party has urged parliament to swiftly pass its Covid-19 relief bill, which promises income support and paid sick leave for residents. Opposition parties balked at the request, pointing out that it was the prime minister’s decision to prorogue parliament which prevented debate for nearly two months.

“What we have today is a government who wants 4.5 hours of debate for $50bn in taxpayer dollars,” the Conservative house leader, Gerard Deltell, said on Monday, calling the Liberals’ plan to fast-track legislation a “joke”.

Parliament is probably due to vote on the measures later in the week. With support from the leftwing New Democratic party, the Liberals are likely to avoid a fall election.