New measures being put in place to keep residents and staff safe against Omicron variant
The Ontario government, in consultation with the Chief Medical Officer of Health, is taking further action to protect the health and safety of residents, staff and caregivers in long-term care and retirement homes from COVID-19 and the Omicron variant. These temporary measures will help reduce the risk of transmission during the winter months and protect the progress the province has made in stopping the spread of the virus and its variants throughout these settings.
“Our priority is to protect long-term care residents from COVID-19. Faced with rising rates of community infection and the emerging threat of the Omicron variant, we are immediately implementing further measures to protect our most vulnerable based on the best available scientific and medical advice,” said Rod Phillips, Minister of Long-Term Care. “These further measures build on the ones already taken, including mandatory vaccinations, priority for third doses and randomized testing — and will provide the best level of protection possible.”
COVID-19 cases in long-term care homes have fallen steadily over the past months due to vigilant policies and a high vaccination rate. In line with Ontario’s cautious approach throughout the pandemic and in light of evolving global evidence around the Omicron variant, the province is adjusting its COVID-19 policies in long-term care homes.
Effective immediately, all general visitors to a long-term care home will need to be fully vaccinated to enter. In addition, the ministry will be directing all long-term care homes to increase infection prevention and control (IPAC) audits.
The following measures at long-term care homes will also go into effect at 12:01 a.m. on Friday, December 17, 2021:
To further protect retirement home residents and staff from the spread of COVID-19 and the Omicron variant, Ontario is also enhancing its COVID-19 policies in retirement homes effective December 22, 2021 to keep residents safe, including:
“Ontario is taking immediate action to protect the health and safety of retirement home residents and staff with enhanced safety protocols,” said Raymond Cho, Minister for Seniors and Accessibility. “We’re working with the Office of the Chief Medical Officer of Health and the Retirement Homes Regulatory Authority to ensure retirement homes are implementing enhanced testing and infection prevention and control measures to keep residents and staff safe and limit the spread of the virus.”
“As we continue to learn more about the Omicron variant and see its impacts on other jurisdictions around the world, it is critical we provide those at greatest risk from COVID-19 in our congregate care settings with an extra layer of protection against this new enemy,” said Dr. Kieran Moore, Chief Medical Officer of Health. “By strengthening public health measures in these settings, we can ensure our most vulnerable are kept safe and shielded from the threats posed by Omicron and other variants of concern.”
The COVID-19 vaccine remains the single best protection against COVID-19 and variants. Every eligible Ontarian is strongly recommended to get vaccinated or receive their booster if they are eligible as soon as possible. To quickly increase our vaccination rates over the next few weeks, primary care providers and their teams have been asked to maximize resources and prioritize increasing capacity to administer first, second and booster doses as quickly as possible, while maintaining essential and critical clinical services. This could include the careful deferral of non-essential clinical services to further support local vaccination efforts over the coming weeks.
As of December 10, 2021, data from the Ministry of Health shows that more than 83 per cent of eligible retirement home residents have received three doses of a COVID-19 vaccine.