Simcoe-Muskoka top doc says end of stay-at-home order risks greater transmission

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TORONTO — The top doctor in an Ontario region hit with outbreaks of a new COVID-19 variant says residents should still take a "stay at home" approach when the provincewide order ends.

The stay-at-home order will be in effect until most regions move back to the government's tiered restrictions system on Feb. 16.

Dr. Charles Gardner, medical officer of health for Simcoe-Muskoka, says he would have preferred to see the order extended.

He noted the presence of the variant that first emerged in the U.K., which has been linked to deadly institutional outbreaks in the area.

It's one of three virus strains Public Health Ontario is screening for, believed to be more infectious and potentially causing more severe illness.

Gardner says the situation is precarious and lifting restrictions risks greater transmission with a variant in the community.

His comments echo concerns from Toronto's top doctor, who said Monday that the new variants could cause a spike in infections if restrictions are lifted.

Ontario reported 1,022 new cases of COVID-19 Monday and 17 more deaths linked to the virus.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 9, 2021.

The Canadian Press