Ontario's chief medical officer of health is set to make an announcement on Wednesday about access to fourth doses of COVID-19 vaccines and to free rapid antigen tests.
Dr. Kieran Moore is scheduled to provide an update at 11 a.m. at Queen's Park.
The Ontario government has been under pressure in recent weeks to expand age eligibility to the fourth shots and to extend distribution of the test kits beyond July 31. Currently, people aged 60 and older, immunocompromised people and Indigenous people are among the select groups who can get a second booster in the province.
Some six million Ontarians who had a third dose of vaccine have been unable to get a second.
Booster shots temporarily increase protection against severe outcomes from the illness to about 90 per cent, Moore said last week, but that protection wanes month over month. By five months, protection against severe health outcomes falls to roughly 70 per cent, with the effect even more pronounced in older people.
Around 7.4 million Ontarians have already received one booster, and nearly 90 per cent of those shots were administered at least five months ago, according to recent Public Health Ontario data.
Moore also confirmed that Ontario is in the midst of another wave of COVID-19 infections, the seventh since the pandemic began and the third attributable to Omicron and its subvariants.
"Sadly yes, we're in another wave," Moore said.
The Omicron BA.5 subvariant and to a lesser extent, BA.4, is largely driving the latest wave, according to Dr. Fahad Razak, an internist at St. Michael's Hospital in Toronto and the scientific director of Ontario's COVID-19 Science Advisory Table.
"The BA.5 subvariant has mutated to the extent that your body is not recognizing it and people are getting reinfected," Razak said last Friday.
"You're seeing this additional surge start in Ontario, and now it's started in other parts of Canada as well."
In its most recent update on the pandemic, published July 7, the province says 712 people are in hospital with COVID-19, up from 585 in the previous week. There are 110 patients in intensive care due to the virus, up from 95 the previous week.
Public Health Ontario, in its July 7 weekly epidemiological summary, which contains data until July 2, said the province's seventh wave of COVID-19 began as early as June 19.
According to the summary, case rates have increased across 25 of Ontario's 34 public health units as of July 2, and in all age groups.
The largest jump was among children aged four and under, with cases in that group spiking by 40 per cent. Case rates remain higher among people 20 and over and are still highest among people 80 and up.
In Ontario, a clear picture about the state of COVID-19 has become increasingly difficult to obtain over the last several months after the government restricted lab testing and stopped publishing school-related data.
In June, the province also moved to weekly reporting of COVID-19 data after more than two years of daily updates.