By Ismail Shakil and David Ljunggren
(Reuters) -Cases of COVID-19 are on the rise across Canada's most populous province of Ontario due to the Delta variant, while Omicron "will hit us hard and fast" next year, an expert panel said on Tuesday.
Ontario reported 928 new cases of COVID-19 on Tuesday, up from 887 cases reported on Monday.
The province has so far found 21 cases of the Omicron variant, which was first detected last month in southern Africa and has since spread around the globe. Canada has had at least 36 cases of the new variant so far.
"COVID will almost certainly rise through January, even before Omicron hits us in full force," a provincial advisory body said.
"We can't predict Omicron precisely, but it will almost certainly hit us hard and fast."
In a briefing on Tuesday, the province's top medical official called the panel's projections "disconcerting."
"I am concerned about the coming months and its potential impact on our healthcare system," chief medical officer Kieran Moore said.
The experts at the advisory body said vaccine effectiveness was very high, but too many Ontarians were unvaccinated or not fully vaccinated and could end up in hospital.
The cases and number of people in intensive care units are likely to continue to rise through January, putting more pressure on already-burdened hospitals, the panel said.
Canada last month authorized the use of Pfizer's coronavirus vaccine for 5 to 11 year-olds, the age group which has been seeing the highest incidences of COVID-19 in the country.
Ontario, which accounts for almost 40% of Canada's population of 39 million people, has suspended its plan to lift restrictions on the number of people who can congregate in restaurants, bars and other such "high-risk settings".
(Reporting by Ismail Shakil in Bengaluru and David Ljunggren in OttawaEditing by Marguerita Choy, William Maclean)