BARRIE, ONT. -- One of Simcoe Muskoka's top doctors says while there have been signs of declines in cases, he doesn't believe restrictions will be lifted by the end of the month.

The province-wide shutdown that was implemented on April 8 is in effect until at least May 20.

With 95 per cent of cases in the region now the B.1.1.7 variant, Dr. Colin Lee, the region's associate medical officer of health, says more time and attention need to be given to reducing case counts further while increasing the number of vaccinated individuals.

"I think we are probably a good four weeks away before we're more comfortable with saying that this decline is for good and hopefully bring an end to this third and hopefully final wave," he says. "We do need to see sort of a steady decline to a very, very low level of cases and the acceleration of vaccine uptake. That's the one-two punch we really need."

With the COVID-19 vaccine supply rising, Lee says discussions are underway about potentially reducing the current 16-week interval between first and second doses.

However, he adds that the health unit is continuing to schedule second doses, with those immunized between Jan. 9 and Feb. 8 currently being contacted.

"We know everyone who has been immunized with their first one has been anxious to get the second one. Rest assured, we haven't forgotten about you, and we will get you your second dose," ensures Lee.

With concern remaining over blood-clot risks associated with the AstraZeneca vaccine, Lee says those who have received it as their first dose shouldn't be worried.

He notes it's important to monitor your symptoms if you feel unwell following the shot.

Lee says there are treatment options available for those who do experience a blood clot following a dose if treated early. He also mentions recent data suggests a reduced risk of blood clots for those who have received their second dose of an AstraZeneca vaccine.

"I think the other encouraging information that we have for countries that have provided two doses to their population of AstraZeneca is that that risk of blood clots seems to be a lot less," Lee adds.

His top focus remains on getting as many vaccines into arms as possible, suggesting the development of lowering the age to children 12 and up will make schools safer for both students and teachers for the next school year.