Cases of the Omicron type have peaked statewide, according to Canada’s chief public health officer, and the number of new infections has declined dramatically in the last week.
Constrained capacity and personnel concerns have made PCR tests unavailable to many people in Canada’s molecular testing system. Other signs, such as daily case numbers, test positive rates, and wastewater surveillance trends, imply that Canada has passed through the worst of the Omicron wave, according to Dr. Theresa Tam.
However, the number of people in hospitals with COVID-19 is still at an all-time high, putting a pressure on Canada’s health-care system.
Every day, more than 10,800 persons with COVID-19 are treated in hospitals across the country, with over 1,200 of them in intensive care units. Every day, 168 people in Canada die as a result of COVID-19.
The seven-day average case count was over 19,000 on Jan. 26, down 28% from the prior week. Caseloads are decreasing for people of all ages.
The lab positivity rate is still high – 19% of all tests are positive — but it has been progressively declining in recent weeks, indicating that the rate of community spread is reducing.
“This reassures us that individual initiatives, such as layering on personal safeguards like masking and restricting in-person contacts, in combination with population-based public health measures, are assisting in slowing transmission and mitigating severe illness trends,” Tam said at a press briefing.
Tam believes that all eligible Canadians should receive a third dose of an mRNA vaccine to reduce the frequency of severe COVID-19 cases.
According to preliminary study, a booster dose provides significantly higher protection against an Omicron infection and reduces the likelihood of severe disease.
According to the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC), the primary series of vaccinations — the first two doses of an mRNA product — provide “poor” to “very low” protection against an Omicron infection. Getting a third shot becomes considerably more vital as a result.
The booster dose recommendations of the National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) were recently modified. It is now recommended that children aged five to eleven who are immunocompromised in a moderate to severe way receive a third dose of the COVID-19 vaccination. Adolescents aged 12 to 17 with impaired immune systems should also get a third vaccine, according to NACI.
As a convoy of anti-vaccine mandate protesters makes its way to Ottawa for a rally, Health Minister Jean-Yves Duclos says the federal government is sticking to its vaccination mandates for cross-border workers such as truck drivers because the vaccinations are the only way to avoid the pandemic.
“Vaccination is not the threat. COVID is the danger. Vaccinations are one tool that we should use to the fullest extent possible “According to Duclos.
“While the Omicron variant has demonstrated some vaccination resistance, vaccine effectiveness, particularly the booster dose, has proved in recent weeks that it will help us get through the crisis we’re in.”
While Omicron instances are decreasing, Tam has issued a warning about a new “sublineage” of that strain termed BA.2 that has been discovered in Canada. So far, more than 100 instances of BA.2 have been detected.
It’s too early to predict how this subvariant may affect Canada’s fight against COVID-19, according to Tam. BA.2 may be more contagious, but it “doesn’t appear to correlate to any specific increase in hospitalizations or poor outcomes,” she added.
BA.2 infections are on the rise in Denmark; the subvariant accounted for nearly half of all Omicron cases in the second week of January, up from about 20% at the end of 2021. Tam believes that such a rise could occur in this area.
“Getting to the top is one thing, but coming down the other side of the wave might still mean a lot of people are sick,” Tam added.
Dr. Howard Njoo, Canada’s deputy chief public health officer, cautioned caution as several provinces prepare to reduce public health restrictions — Ontario, for example, will allow gyms, movie theaters, and restaurants to reopen next week at 50% capacity.
“This must be done very carefully in all provinces and territories to keep infection rates low and to ensure that hospitalizations are kept to a minimum,” he said.
“But we’re upbeat, and there’s cause to be hopeful. Yes, measures can be loosened if epidemiology allows it, as long as trends demonstrate a decreasing slope.”