PEI announces stronger restrictions as the Omicron variant strains the healthcare system

CHARLOTTETOWN, PEI – In an attempt to repel the growing wave of COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations in PEI, the government announced a series of new restrictions January 18, which restricts personal gatherings, closes a wide range of businesses and keeps schools closed for classroom instruction.

The restrictions are scheduled to take effect at midnight on January 18 and are currently set to run until January 31.

PEI’s senior public health director Dr. Heather Morrison and Prime Minister Dennis King said the restrictions were a difficult choice.

Indicators such as hospital and intensive care units, as well as the seven-day rolling average of cases, are heading in the wrong direction, King said during a media briefing on January 18 in Charlottetown.

“Omicron has brought with it a fog that has made the finish line difficult to find. We have to do everything we have to do to slow it down until the fog clears, “King said.

Morrison said current public health measures have helped curb the spread – but not enough.

“Our numbers are really going in the wrong direction and we are facing a serious situation,” Morrison said. “We believe that these (new) measures will help slow down development.”

Condolences

Both King and Morrison condoled as well two families whose loved ones died of COVID-19. These deaths were announced by the Chief Public Health Office on 14 January.

“My deepest sympathy,” King said. “I’m sure when I tell these two families that you have an entire province grieving with you.”

Premier Dennis King speaks to the media during a briefing on January 18, 2022. - Screenshot
Premier Dennis King speaks to the media during a briefing on January 18, 2022. – Screenshot

King announced that two cabinet committees were being set up to steer the government’s response to this latest set of restrictions.

One committee for social response and another for economic and state operations meet daily for the next while.

“They are accused of making sure we do everything we can to support the islanders in this time,” King said.

New cases

From kl. 8 in the morning of January 18, there were 407 new cases of COVID-19, bringing the total number of active cases to 2,214. There are eight people in the hospital, including four patients in the intensive care unit. There are three other people in the hospital with COVID-19, but who are being treated for other disorders. There have been 4,408 cases since the pandemic began, Morrison said.

There are also three new facility-based outbreaks under investigation at the Provincial Addictions Treatment Facility, Bevan Lodge Community Care Facility and Andrews of Park West long-term care facility, Morrison said.

“The reality is that when we are out in the community, we should be prepared that there is a chance we can get COVID-19, regardless of our age,” Morrison said.


Public health restrictions

The following public health restrictions apply to PEI from midnight on 18 January and apply until 31 January:

  • Personal gatherings are limited to a single household plus up to two other support persons where necessary. People living alone can join another household. Single households can participate in outdoor activities.
  • Organized gatherings are not allowed.
  • Funerals and wedding ceremonies are allowed with up to 10 people plus official.
  • Fitness centers, group workouts and all indoor recreational facilities will be closed.
  • In-room dining and service at licensed eateries or premises will be closed.
  • Schools will be closed for classroom instruction until January 31st.
  • Museums, casinos and bingo halls are closed.
  • Retail will remain at 50 percent capacity with physical distance.

Test results

Negative COVID-19 test results have been available online since September 2020.

“Now, people who check their test results online will also be able to see if the result is positive, which means they will know their COVID-19 status much faster,” Morrison said.

Dr.  Heather Morrison, Chief Public Health Officer for PEI, announces that additional restrictions will take effect on January 19 and is intended to help slow the transfer and ease the burden on health care.  - Alison Jenkins
Dr. Heather Morrison, Chief Public Health Officer for PEI, announces that additional restrictions will take effect on January 19 and is intended to help slow the transfer and ease the burden on health care. – Alison Jenkins

The results will be published online within four to 24 hours after the test is completed.

There will be online instructions to follow in case of a positive test result.


“The Omicron variant affects every aspect of life in PEI, and we all want this to be over. Every one of us is tired and COVID-tired.”

– Dr. Heather Morrison


Morrison said her team can no longer call on all the new cases, but it will continue to personally contact anyone over 50 who tests positive.

Anyone without internet can call 1-833-533-9333 for confirmation of COVID-19 test results.


COVID-19 figures reported in PEI on 17 January

  • 231 new cases of COVID-19
  • 378 recoveries

Vaccinate

“We have a personal responsibility to protect ourselves and others, and we all have to do our part,” Morrison said.

Vaccines and boosters remain the best protection against COVID-19 including the Omicron strain, she said.

Chief public health officer Dr.  Heather Morrison says vaccines and boosters remain the best protection against COVID-19 including the Omicron strain.  - Reuters
Chief public health officer Dr. Heather Morrison says vaccines and boosters remain the best protection against COVID-19 including the Omicron strain. – Reuters

“Hospitalization for serious illness related to the Omicron variant is disproportionately high in people who are not fully vaccinated,” Morrison said.

Currently, there are about 23,500 people eligible for a booster shot who have not yet made an appointment.

“This is too many people at risk of needing hospital treatment,” Morrison said.

Anyone who needs help booking an appointment can call the vaccine order line.

System strained

Morrison said Prince Edward Island is at “an important crossroads” in the pandemic.

The number of new cases, the numerous outbreaks in high-risk environments, high demand for test clinics and staff shortages in some long-term care facilities are straining health resources in the province, Morrison said.

“The staff at Health PEI and local pharmacies work tirelessly to vaccinate thousands of people every week,” she said. “The staff in the hospital sectors take care of people who need hospital treatment and are preparing for the possibility of increased demand for emergency treatment in connection with this wave.

“The Omicron variant affects every aspect of life in PEI, and we all want this to be over … every single one of us is tired and COVID-tired.”

Alison Jenkins is a health reporter for the SaltWire Network on Prince Edward Island.

Twitter.com/AlisonEBC

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