The epidemiologist who has been a key member of Ontario’s Science Advisory Table throughout the majority of the COVID-19 epidemic is stepping down in order to pursue a research position overseas.
Dr. Peter Jüni, the scientific director of the volunteer epidemiologists and researchers who advise the Ford administration on pandemic policy, has accepted a position at Oxford University, which he will start on July 1.
In the meantime, he will continue to serve with the Ontario Science Advisory Table, but he told CP24 that he wants to stand down by late spring.
“It is probably what is the logical next step and it feels right, even though I can be honest I’m quite emotional and I will be heartbroken to leave,” he said during an interview on Friday afternoon.
The Swiss-born Jüni, who has worked in Toronto since 2015,,told CP24 that his decision to leave is mostly being driven by a desire to be closer to family.
News of his departure comes ahead of the province lifting the mask mandate for most settings on Monday. The Ontario government has also indicated that it will move all remaining COVID-19 restrictions by the end of April.
Speaking with CP24, Jüni said that with a little bit of “luck” Ontario should be able to get by without having to reimpose public health restrictions.
However, he said that people shouldn’t take his departure as proof that the pandemic is over.
He also warned that some precautions, like masking, might have to be revived should transmission rise.
“It is not over. It’s getting much better to face changes because we continue to build up more immunity. But we will need probably a few more seasons before we could really call this endemic,” he said.
Jüni is currently employed as the director of the Applied Health Research Centre at St. Michael’s Hospital.