By Ismail Shakil
(Reuters) - The Canadian province of Ontario is starting to see "glimmers of hope" as the rate of new hospitalisations caused by the Omicron variant of the coronavirus slows, but challenges remain, health minister Christine Elliott said on Wednesday.
Elliott's comments were the latest from officials in Ontario and Quebec - which together account for more than 60% of Canada's population - to suggest that the worst of the Omicron wave might soon be over.
Ontario Premier Doug Ford told a radio station on Tuesday that the province would make a positive announcement this week about removing COVID-19 related restrictions imposed last month.
"We're starting to see glimmers of hope ... beginning to see signs of stabilisation," Elliott told a briefing, adding that a peak in new hospitalisations would follow a peak in new infections this month.
"But I do want to be clear, February will continue to pose challenges, especially for our hospitals as people continue to require care for COVID-19."
Federal Health Minister Jean-Yves Duclos, at a separate briefing, also spoke about pressure on the healthcare system. Duclos repeated the need for more people to get vaccinated, especially children aged between 5 and 12.
"Though the risk of hospitalization is lower for Omicron, the sheer volume of cases will likely increase hospital admissions," Duclos said.
The Pacific province of British Columbia, citing concerns for its hospitals, extended gathering restrictions until mid-February on Tuesday.
(Reporting by Ismail Shakil in Bengaluru, editing by David Ljunggren in Ottawa and Grant McCool)