The Government is implementing new measures to safeguard Ontarians as the new Omicron variant sweeps across the country. Ontario’s Chief Medical Officer of Health predicts that this variant will become the dominant strain within weeks. Early data suggests that for every 100 cases of this virus, it will infect 332 other people. It has a transmission rate between four and eight times that of the Delta variant, which means Omicron cases will double every two to three days. Because of the expected extreme high spread rate, experts are predicting a significant increase in active cases and hospitalizations. Provincially, active cases have more than doubled over the past week.
Vaccination remains our best defence against all COVID-19 variants. Hence, as of Monday, December 20, anyone 18 and over, with at least three months (84 days) since receiving their second dose, are recommended to schedule their booster vaccination. Dialysis patients can get their third dose 56 days after their second. Check out the Eastern Ontario Health Unit’s website at www.EOHU.ca or by calling 1-800-267-7120 for the latest vaccination information, including booster availability and walk-in clinics locations for children and their parents. Book your appointment at www.Ontario.ca/bookvaccine or through your local pharmacy and primary health practitioner. Unfortunately, a high volume of bookings, exceeding 168,000 per day, caused the system to experience technical difficulties earlier this week. We apologize for the delays, but the demand is exceeding staffing and location logistics, and more timeslots are being added daily. However, the portal is now running smoothly.
With conditions changing rapidly, we can’t afford to let our guard down and risk straining our hospitals’ ability to provide residents with the timely care they need. Please follow our best public health practices by avoiding large crowds, wearing a mask, social distancing, staying home if sick, and getting fully vaccinated. The Government is also taking new measures to ensure that anyone who enters an indoor setting that requires proof of vaccination has received their two doses. Beginning January 4, 2022, it will be mandatory to show an enhanced vaccine certificate with a QR code on a mobile device or a paper copy. You can download your proof of vaccination at https://covid19.ontariohealth.ca/, at a Service Ontario centre or public library, or by calling 1-833-943-3900.
Our Government continues to take steps to support our small businesses. This week, we announced that bars, restaurants, and other businesses with a licence to operate a liquor consumption premise would see a 20 percent cut in wholesale prices for the alcohol they purchase from the LCBO. This permanent wholesale discount will put about $60 million a year back into these businesses so that they can invest in themselves and their workers. This action builds on other recent changes to improve alcohol choice and convenience for consumers. This new modernized legal framework simplifies rules for the alcohol sector, creates more opportunities for businesses, and strengthens social responsibility standards. The Government has also frozen the basic beer tax rates that were set to be indexed to inflation on March 1, 2022, to support beer and craft beer brewers to recover and grow while saving consumers money.
As always, stay safe and get vaccinated if you have not done so. As this will be my final update for the year until resuming on January 8, I want to wish everyone a Very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.
MPP for Stormont-Dundas-South Glengarry