Variants could fuel third COVID-19 wave in Canada, modelling shows

Ruben Hill
February 21, 2021

"You need to avoid complete lockdowns and curfews and all those things by trying to maintain a strong level of public health measures", said Dr. Theresa Tam, Canada's chief public health officer at a modeling presentation Friday.

Ottawa is reporting 53 new COVID-19 cases Saturday, one more death.

Daily case counts, the number of outbreaks in long-term care facilities, hospitalization rates, and virus-related deaths, have all declined nationally in the last month.

Canada could see upwards of 20,000 new COVID-19 cases per day by March if measures are relaxed, the data shows.

The above slide is "our new reality", Tam said.

On Thursday, Canada's deputy chief public health officer said federal and provincial health experts are looking at evidence that one shot of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine against COVID-19 may be nearly as good as giving two.

Ontario, the most populous of the 10 provinces, is gradually allowing shuttered businesses to reopen and diluting limits on the size of public gatherings.

The modelling shows the epidemic curve taking an nearly vertical path to 20,000 cases per day by mid-March if public health restrictions are relaxed even further. "And current community-based public health measures will be insufficient to control rapid growth and resurgence as forecast".

Asked about the apparent contradiction between her warning and moves to lift some restrictions, Tam said chief medical officers in the provinces knew the measures could only be eased very slowly, with plenty of surveillance and testing.

"Our daily case counts have been steadily declining over several weeks". Quebec, Ontario, Alberta and Manitoba have all made a decision to relax restrictions in recent days, allowing many non-essential businesses such as restaurants and gyms to reopen.

This comes after Ontario's latest round of modelling revealed the B.1.1.7 variant could "soon dominate" the province.

Tam said that kind of swift response is necessary.

To bring the pandemic under control and stop the variants from spreading further, Tam said that enhanced public health measures and strong adherence to individual precautions are needed. "But with highly contagious variants in our midst, the threat of uncontrolled epidemic growth is significantly elevated", said Tam.

At a press conference today, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau urged provincial and territorial leaders not to relax public health measures too quickly.

"(They) now appear in 10 provinces.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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