London fire, ambulance services feel fallout from COVID-19 outbreak on staff

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As Omicron explodes across Ontario, two of the London-area emergency services grapple with workers on sick leave due to COVID-19.

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The Middlesex-London Paramedic Service says 26 paramedics are temporarily off work after testing positive for the virus or coming into close contact with it.

Seventeen workers are considered to be at high risk and eight were infected on Thursday, paramedic chief Neal Roberts said.

“It placed additional burdens on the service; however, paramedical operations remain stable, ”he wrote in an email.

The Paramedic Service is working with the Middlesex London Health Unit to monitor the situation and seek advice as needed, Neal said.

London firefighters reported eight infections among their more than 400 workers on Friday.

Officials said they could not share the number of people who were self-isolating, due to recent changes to provincial public health rules that reduced the isolation period from 10 to five days for fully vaccinated people and those under 12 years old.

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That number, however, “has (been) drastically reduced” since the new rule was announced on Thursday, London Fire Chief Lori Hamer said.

The fire department faced the worst of the Omicron-fueled COVID-19 wave on Christmas Day, when it was forced to adopt a “workplace quarantine process as a last resort,” Hamer wrote.

This meant that three firefighters who had come in close contact with a positive case had to work that day to keep essential services running, she added.

“Since then, we haven’t had to implement the same process and don’t anticipate that it will be necessary until the weekend,” Hamer said.

The fire department consulted with the area’s public health unit before taking action.

A London Police spokesperson did not provide the number of COVID-19 infections or isolates within the department, but said the force was following provincial and regional health guidelines.

The infections come as the London area broke its daily record for cases for the seventh time since December 22, with the health unit reporting 638 new infections but no additional deaths on Friday.

The Local Journalism Initiative is funded by the Government of Canada


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