About half of the COVID-19 cases in Ontario are now caused by the highly contagious Delta variant, according to the province’s science advisory table.
While overall COVID-19 case counts in Ontario have been dropping, public health officials have warned that the variant first identified in India is spreading rapidly.
that as of Wednesday, 50.4 per cent of cases in the province are caused by variants without the N501Y mutation, of which the most frequent is Delta.
Delta is about 1.5 times more transmissible than Alpha, the variant first identified in Britain, which pushed Ontario into a crushing third wave of the pandemic this spring.
The province’s associate chief medical officer of health has said that Delta is expected to become the dominant variant in Ontario.
It’s spreading just as the province is relaxing pandemic restrictions.
Scientists are debating the impact Delta may have on the province because the number of people vaccinated is also on the rise.
As of Wednesday, 75 per cent of adults in the province had received one dose of vaccine and 18 per cent have two doses, so are fully vaccinated. Provincial officials were to give another update Thursday on the vaccine rollout.
However, the news from Britain, where Delta rose quickly in a matter of weeks to become the dominant variant, is cautionary.
About 55 per cent of people in England are fully vaccinated with two doses, but cases and hospitalization are on the rise as Delta spreads. This week the government delayed by a month its plans to further ease lockdown restrictions.
A large study published by the U.K. government Thursday said that Delta was causing exponential growth in England. Infections increased by 50 per cent since the last study in May and COVID-19 cases are doubling every 11 days.
“Despite the success of the vaccination rollout, report shows the prevalence of COVID-19 infections was rising rapidly during late May and early June, coinciding with Delta becoming the dominant variant,” said the REACT study by Imperial College London and Ipsos MORI, which tested almost 109,000 volunteers in England between May 20 and June 7 to examine the levels of COVID-19 in the general population.
In Ontario, Delta is suspected to be behind the surge of cases in Waterloo and in northern Ontario’s Porcupine Health region.
The Porcupine health unit maintained some COVID-19 restrictions on June 11 when the rest of the province moved into Step 1 of the reopening plan.
The remote northern Ontario community of Kashechewan First Nation, where most adults are fully vaccinated, is now battling a surge of COVID-19 cases. Most of those infected are children under 12 who aren’t eligible to be vaccinated and teenagers who have either not been vaccinated or have only one dose.
Indigenous Services Minister Marc Miller said Wednesday there were 232 active cases in the community.
Ontario has accelerated eligibility for second doses of vaccine to seven hot spots where the Delta variant is spreading.
People in those regions who got their first dose on May 9 or earlier could book a second shot starting Monday.
Ontario reported 370 new cases of COVID-19 on Thursday. The most cases were in Toronto (67), Waterloo (57) and Peel (47).
Ottawa was No. 5 on that list, with 34 cases reported by the province. The numbers from Ottawa Public Health are released later in the day and often vary slightly because the data is collected at different times.
There were seven new deaths reported in the province.
The province reported 397 people in hospital with the disease and 362 people in intensive care, 232 of them on ventilators.
Ontario also reported record vaccinations for the second day in a row, with 210,611 doses administered, for a total of 11,943,025 doses.
-with files from the Canadian Press