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Omicron could soon swamp critical care in Canada's most populous province


OTTAWA, (Reuters) - The Omicron variant of COVID19 is spreading rapidly in Ontario, Canada's most populous province, and could overwhelm intensive care units early next month without prompt interventi­on, a panel of experts said yesterday.

"This will likely be the hardest wave of the pandemic," said Steini Brown, head of the Ontario COVID-19 Science Advisory Table.

The panel released modeling which said increased vaccinatio­n alone would not be enough to fight Omicron. Instead, it called for public health measures to cut peoples' contacts by 50% and ensure the rapid roll-out of booster doses.

"Omicron transmits very quickly ... without prompt interventi­on, intensive care unit occupancy could reach unsustaina­ble levels in early January," said the modeling.

Ontario, which accounts for just under 40% of Canada's population, earlier reported 2,421 new daily cases, almost double the number from a week earlier. Nationwide the average number of new cases each day has risen about 75% in the past six weeks, according to a Reuters tally­s-tracker-and-maps/countries-and-territorie­s/canada.

"Our hospitals will still face incredibly strong pressures. This will come at an already challengin­g time when health care workers are fatigued or burned out from the preceding waves," Brown told a briefing.

Ontario said on Wednesday it was limiting indoor events of over 1,000 people to 50% capacity. Brown said this was not enough to curb the rapid growth of Omicron.

"There is still some uncertaint­y, but there's also an undeniable urgency.

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