Ontario’s health minister says that her government is “staying the course” and is unlikely to reimpose public health restrictions, even as some local officials urge their residents to keep masking in indoor public settings.

Christine Elliott made the comment to reporters during a funding announcement at North York General Hospital on Thursday afternoon.

Her comments come with COVID-19 related hospitalizations on the rise and the head of Ontario’s Science Advisory Table now warning that a sixth wave of the pandemic has arrived in the province.

Several local medical officers of health have also urged their residents to continue masking as a precaution, including Ottawa’s Dr. Vera Etches who wrote a letter to Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Kieran Moore earlier this week about the “concerning” levels of COVID transmission in the nation’s capital.

“At this point it doesn’t appear necessary that we need to take any further precautions but we will continue to follow it and as Dr. Moore gives us advice we will certainly be ready to take it,” Elliott said. “But we have the capacity in our hospitals now, we have a highly vaccinated population and we do have the antivirals now, which we are receiving more and more of. If we need to take any further measures we will but so far it doesn't appear that we need to do that.”

The Ford government lifted the mask mandate in most settings earlier this month and plans to remove all remaining public health restrictions by the end of April.

However, wastewater surveillance is now pointing to an exponential rise in COVID-19 transmission that has some public health experts concerned about another wave of the pandemic.

Against this backdrop, Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Kieran Moore has stopped holding the briefings on COVID-19 that have unfolded throughout the pandemic, leaving Ontarians with less information than they were given in previous waves.

“He's not doing the regular interviews as he used to do because as I said before we're now at a stage where the peak of the pandemic has passed, subject to new variants but none that we know of at this point,” Elliott insisted on Thursday. “We need to get on with our life and learn to live with COVID as it still exists with us, but I think it's very good news, in fact, that he's not doing weekly updates because we have moved past that at this point.”

There are currently 807 people in hospital with COVID-19, up roughly 22 per cent from this time last week.

Speaking with reporters, Elliott said that the rise in cases and hospitalizations was “not unexpected” given the lifting of many restrictions.

But she said that Moore “is of the view that at this point we are able to now learn to live with some continued cases of COVID.”

“Unfortunately it is not going away completely just yet but we need to move on and continue with the reopening of our economy so that people can get back to a more normal way of life,” she said.