Update from Dr. Theresa Tam Chief Medical Officer of Health

Dr. Theresa Tam

OTTAWA – COVID-19 Update – This week marks National Volunteer Week (April 18-24, 2021), with the theme of “The Value of One, The Power of Many.” People across the country have been supporting one another throughout the pandemic in big and small ways. This week, we want to highlight a few of the many extraordinary acts of kindness and compassion by millions of people in Canada who are helping others in their community during the pandemic. Pandemic Pals, for example, was developed by high school students to help connect students volunteers with seniors in long-term care homes to develop meaningful relationships and combat feelings of loneliness. There are so many other inspiring examples across the country, from volunteers providing transport to vaccination appointments to establishing community fridges, that show us the power of what we can do as individuals and collectively together. Thank you to all the volunteers working for change across Canada – you lead the way in stronger together!

As COVID-19 activity continues in Canada, we are tracking a range of epidemiological indicators to monitor where the disease is most active, where it is spreading and how it is impacting the health of Canadians and public health, laboratory and healthcare capacity. At the same time, the Public Health Agency of Canada is providing Canadians with regular updates on COVID-19 vaccines administered, vaccination coverage and ongoing monitoring of vaccine safetyacross the country. The following is the latest summary on national numbers and trends, and the actions we all need to be taking to reduce infection rates, while vaccination programs expand for the protection of all Canadians.

Since the start of the pandemic, there have been 1,113,907 cases of COVID-19, including 86,763 active cases and 23,591 deaths reported in Canada; these cumulative numbers tell us about the overall burden of COVID-19 illness to date. They also tell us, together with results of serological studies, that the vast majority of Canadians remain susceptible to COVID-19. As vaccine delivery ramps up at an accelerated pace, there is cause for optimism that widespread and lasting immunity can be achieved through COVID-19 vaccination. We now have multiple safe and effective COVID-19 vaccines with unique advantages that are authorised for use in Canada. Vaccine coverage is increasing across Canada, with benefits being seen in prioritized high-risk populations. Ramp up of vaccine supply and acceleration of vaccination programs will return further benefits to protect more Canadians, over the coming weeks and months.

However, with the current acceleration of COVID-19 activity and a concerning rise in the proportion of cases that involve more contagious variants of concern, strong public health measures and individual precautions must be sustained where COVID-19 is circulating. The latest national-level data show a 7-day average of 8,669 new cases daily (Apr 9-15), a 26% increase compared to the previous seven days. For the week of April 4-10, there were on average of 124,247 tests completed daily across Canada, of which 6.5% were positive for COVID-19, an increase from 5.1% the week prior. Sustained high infection rates are also impacting COVID-19 severity indicators, particularly in areas with elevated disease activity. The rise in severe and critical illnesses is placing renewed strain on the health system and healthcare workforce. Provincial and territorial data indicate that an average of 3,428 people with COVID-19 were being treated in Canadian hospitals each day during the most recent 7-day period (Apr 9-15) representing a 34% increase over last week. This includes, on average 1,049 people who were being treated in intensive care units (ICU), which is 22% higher than the previous week. Mortality trends are also increasing, with a 7-day average of 41 deaths reported daily, which is 38% higher than the week prior.

While COVID-19 continues to impact people of all ages in Canada, infection rates are highest among those aged 20-39 years of age. As well, we are seeing an increased number of adults under the age of 60 years being treated for COVID-19 in hospital, including in ICUs. This is a reminder that serious illness can occur at any age and evidence indicates that variants of concern can be associated with more severe illness and increased risk of death. In addition, circulation of COVID-19 in younger, more mobile and socially-connected adults is an ongoing risk for spread into high-risk populations and settings and several jurisdictions have highlighted social gatherings as an important driver for spread. As of April 15, a total of 51,643 variant of concern cases have been reported across Canada, including 49,365 involving B.1.1.7 variants, 1,882 P.1 variants and 396 B.1.351 variants. Although B.1.1.7, continues to account for the majority of variants of concern in Canada and has likely replaced the original virus in some areas, there has been a concerning rise in P.1 cases in recent weeks. Early evidence suggests that the P.1 variant may reduce the effectiveness of vaccines, making it even more important to control its spread.

Canadians are urged to remain vigilant, continue following local public health advice, and consistently maintain individual practices that keep us and our families safer: stay home/self-isolate if you have any symptoms, think about the risks and reduce non-essential activities and outings to a minimum, avoid all non-essential travel, and maintain individual protective practices of physical distancing, hand, cough and surface hygiene and wearing a well-fitted and properly worn face mask as appropriate (including in shared spaces, indoors or outdoors, with people from outside of your immediate household).

Canadians can also go the extra mile by sharing credible information on COVID-19 risks and prevention practices and measures to reduce COVID-19 in communities and by downloading the COVID Alert app to break the cycle of infection and help limit the spread of COVID-19. Read my backgrounder to access more COVID-19 Information and Resources on ways to reduce the risks and protect yourself and others, including information on COVID-19 vaccination.

SOURCE Public Health Agency of Canada

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