Ontario projects surge of COVID-19 cases akin to that of hard-hit Australian state

TORONTO (Reuters) - Ontario could reach 1,000 new COVID-19 cases a day in the first half of October, projections released on Wednesday showed, putting Canada’s most-populous province on a trajectory similar to that of the hard-hit Australian state of Victoria.

FILE PHOTO: People wait in line at the Women's College coronavirus disease (COVID-19) testing facility in Toronto, Ontario, Canada September 18, 2020. REUTERS/Carlos Osorio

The projections did not consider the impact of modest restrictions introduced earlier in September and came on a day the province reported 625 new cases.

A graph of projected cases in the modeling showed Ontario beginning to track the case spike in Victoria, which declared a state of disaster and imposed a curfew and strict movement restrictions on Aug. 1.

Adalsteinn Brown, dean of the University of Toronto’s school of public health, told reporters that cases were doubling every 10 to 12 days and warned of “a remarkably high surge, unless public health measures and adherence to public health measures start to damp down that transmission.”

Ontario Chief Medical Officer David Williams said officials were looking at the risk associated with some banquet halls, group fitness classes, and workplaces that are “less than stringent” about employees who are sick or required to quarantine coming to work.

The Ontario government announced a C$2.8 billion ($2.1 billion) spending plan to slow the spread of the virus in the coming months. It has cut the size of social gatherings in some hot spots, limited the hours for bars and restaurants to operate and serve alcohol, and closed strip clubs in recent days.

Premier Doug Ford slammed individuals protesting mask requirements and other public health measures, calling them “yahoos.”

“Guys, give your heads a shake,” Ford told a briefing in Toronto. “We’re all in this together.”

Quebec Premier Francois Legault said on Wednesday that police would be able to give out C$1,000 ($750) fines to enforce new provincial restrictions in Montreal and two other hard-hit regions to curb the virus and for not wearing masks at protests.

Starting on Thursday, police will be able to ask a judge remotely for a warrant to enter homes where owners refuse to cooperate with new rules governing the size of private gatherings.

“We cannot accept that a majority of people pay for the negligence of a minority,” Legault told reporters in Quebec City.

Quebec, which reported 838 new cases on Wednesday, is Canada’s hardest-hit province for COVID-19.

Reporting by Allison Martell and Denny Thomas in Toronto and Moira Warburton in Vancouver; Editing by Jonathan Oatis and Peter Cooney