As COVID-19 cases increase, Ontario study suggests Omicron is less serious

A nurse administers a COVID-19 vaccine at a mass vaccination clinic in Mississauga, Ont., On December 24th.Chris Young / The Canadian Press

As the Omicron variant continues to cause record numbers Covid-19 cases in several provinces, a new study from Ontario suggests that those infected with the variant are significantly less likely to be hospitalized or die compared to those who have the Delta variant.

In the study, Public Health compared Ontario Omicron cases with symptoms that appeared between November 22 and December 17 with Delta cases and found that after adjusting for vaccination status and region, the risk of hospitalization or death was 54 percent lower with Omicron.

The agency says Omicron appears to be the first dominant variant showing a decline in severity, but warns that due to its higher transferability, “the absolute number of admissions and the impact on the healthcare system are likely to be significant, despite of a possible reduced severity. “

Provinces across the country have seen an increasing number of cases as a result of Omicron, which has led them to change or expand health restrictions.

Quebec said Wednesday that vaccinated health workers who test positive to COVID-19 could be allowed to return to work after seven days if they have no symptoms and that workers exposed to COVID-19 by non-members of their household no longer automatically need to isolate themselves.

Manitoba and Ontario have said they were considering similar measures to avoid overpowering their own health systems.

British Columbia says it will bring students back in January in a step-by-step approach, with staff and students whose parents are health workers, as well as those in need of extra support, returning to class on January 3 or 4. All other students will return to school on January 10th.

Ontario, Manitoba, Alberta, British Columbia and Quebec set new case records on Wednesday, with the latter reporting more than 13,000 infections, 10 more deaths and a 102-person increase in COVID-19-related hospitalizations. Ontario reported 10,436 new infections and three deaths.

Alberta more than doubled its active number of cases in one week, while recording its highest one-day rise in new infections.

Also in Quebec, a COVID-19 outbreak in a federal prison has seen 15 employees and four inmates tested positive for the new coronavirus.

Correctional Service Canada revealed the infections at the medium-secured La Macaza institution in a statement Thursday.

The federal agency is expected to provide an update on inmates’ infections in the rest of Canada later in the day.

Last week, Correctional Service Canada reported 17 active cases among inmates, though it has since announced outbreaks among inmates at a Nova Scotia women’s prison and a prison in Ontario.

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