Niagara could be on the brink of more restrictions if social contacts aren’t reduced, says Hirji

·2 min read

More restrictions could be on the horizon for Niagara Region if current COVID-19 trends continue.

As cases continue to rise, including 55 new positive tests over the weekend, the region’s acting medical officer of health, Dr. Mustafa Hirji, is urging everyone to limit their number of social contacts.

During a media briefing on Friday (Nov. 6), Hirji outlined the current state of affairs in Niagara when it comes to the fight against COVID-19. The region’s top public health officer said an increasing number of cases means more work needs to be done to limit interactions that lead to community spread of the virus.

“Right now is a time where we need to be seeing that social interaction really bend in Niagara, or we are going to be heading into that next range.”

On Friday, the province launched its new colour-coded COVID alert system, with graduating levels of restrictions in each range.

Niagara is currently placed in the yellow “protect” category, but according to Hirji, the latest trends put the region at risk of moving up into the orange “restrict” category, where further restrictions would be placed on businesses, including reduced hours, limited indoor dining, and fewer people allowed into stores and restaurants.

“If I am looking at the average over the past seven days, Niagara is at 37 cases weekly per 100,000 population, which puts us near the top end of that protect range.

“The most recent data on our positivity rate also puts us at the top end of the protect range.”

From a public health perspective, Hirji said increased vigilance on the part of younger people will be required if Niagara hopes to bend the curve of COVID-19.

“The numbers show that, quite clearly, the younger age group in their 20s and 30s is driving most of the spread, and has really diverged from the other age groups in terms of the number of cases.

“These are people in their 20s who are really making up the most new cases in that younger age group that is rising. This is the highest risk group we are focused on, where we need to encourage people to break up their social interactions”

Nine months into the ongoing pandemic, and with many already feeling the effects of COVID fatigue set in, Hirji said he understands the challenge that exists in motivating a public who seek a return to normalcy, but adds more work remains to be done if the number of cases are to come under control.

“With cases going up, I think many people may feel disheartened that they are doing quite a lot already, and it doesn’t seem to be enough yet.

“But the only way we address rising numbers is by placing restrictions on businesses, or us voluntarily limiting our social activity. It Is just the hard truth of the situation that nobody likes and nobody wants.”

Bryan Levesque, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Grimsby Lincoln News