(BBC) – The rate of coronavirus infections in Canada’s biggest province has reached an all-time high as hospitals warn they are close to being overwhelmed.
A panel of experts say infections in Ontario could increase by 600% by June if public health measures are weak and vaccination rates do not pick up.
Last week, for the first time since the pandemic began, Canada registered more cases per million than the US.
About 22% of Canadians have now received a first vaccine dose.
That compares to 37% in the US.
The public health experts advising the Ontario government say a stay-at-home order is needed for at least six weeks, with vaccinations running at 100,000 a day, if the current wave of Covid is to be brought under control.
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said the federal government would help Toronto, the largest city in the country, which has been hard-hit by the latest surge.
“We’re going to do whatever it takes to help. Discussions are ongoing about extra healthcare providers, and we are ready to step up,” he said on Friday.
Why has it suddenly got worse?
New variants – especially the UK variant, B1.1.7 – account for more than two-thirds of infections in Ontario.
Even with vaccinations progressing, the expert panel warned that the number of new cases in Ontario could go as high as 30,000 a day – in a province with 14 million people, 38% of the total population of Canada.
On Friday, Ontario reported 4,812 new cases, its third straight day of setting new records since the pandemic began.
Hospital admissions and the number of patients in intensive care also set records for Ontario: 1,955 and 701, respectively.