Tougher rules will be coming for long-term care homes in Ontario, given the rise in COVID-19 cases across the province and the threat of the omicron variant, CBC News has learned.
Some of the anticipated restrictions will include increased testing at homes, including vaccinated residents, and tightening the visitor policy with only two visitors per resident allowed at one time, a senior official tells CBC News.
Visitors will also be required to be vaccinated, a rule that is not currently mandatory, as anyone visiting can enter with a negative COVID-19 test. Non-vaccinated residents will not be allowed to leave their home, the source says.
The announcement could come as early as Monday afternoon and changes would take effect later this week, the source says, but final details will still have to be confirmed.
On Friday, Ontario’s Chief Medical Officer Dr. Kieran Moore hinted that extra measures for long-term care would be coming.
“With omicron taking over, we have reviewed all of our protocols for our long-term care facilities, our retirement homes and for our hospitals, all the directives that we’ve put in play,” Moore said during a press conference.
“We’re strengthening them and you’ll hear further how we’re protecting our long-term care residents, our seniors with these strategies in the coming days.”
As of last month, nearly 98 per cent of people working at long-term care homes in Ontario have had at least one COVID-19 vaccine dose, after the Ford government mandated that all workers in the sector be fully vaccinated by Dec. 13.
As of Sunday, 11 long-term care homes in Ontario are dealing with COVID-19 outbreaks, according to the ministry’s data. About 4,028 deaths of residents in long-term care homes across the province have been linked to the illness since the onset of the pandemic.
“I want to ensure Ontarians, we’re trying to learn from the lessons of the last 20 months, we’re trying to learn from what has transpired previously in our long-term care facilities and best protect those patients,” Moore said.
The source says there are talks about possible changes to be implemented beyond the long-term care sector, with the threat of the omicron variant.