Statement from the Chief Public Health Officer of Canada on December 21, 2020

OTTAWA, ON, Dec. 21, 2020 /CNW/ - The Government of Canada is closely monitoring the genetic variant of the virus that causes COVID-19 identified in the United Kingdom and is working with international and other partners including the World Health Organization to better understand this variant and its impacts.

In response to COVID-19, Canada has established robust border measures, including quarantine and travel restrictions. Yesterday, the Government of Canada put in place enhanced measures with respect to travel to Canada from the United Kingdom. The United Kingdom has implemented special entry and exit requirements for its territory and Canadians are advised to avoid all non-essential travel.

As the resurgence of 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. The following is the latest summary on national numbers and trends, and the actions we all need to be taking to maintain COVID-19 at manageable levels across the country. Due to reduced reporting over the weekend, national seven-day averages have not been updated in today's statement. These data are still being collected and analysed. I will provide the latest numbers during my remarks tomorrow.

Over the weekend, the number of COVID-19 cases reported across Canada to-date exceeded 500,000. The total number of cases since the start of the pandemic is now 507,795, including 14,228 reported deaths; these cumulative numbers tell us about the overall burden of COVID-19 illness to date. Though many areas continue to experience high infection rates, it is important to remember that the vast majority of Canadians remain susceptible to COVID-19. This is why it is important for everyone to continue with individual precautions to protect ourselves, our families and our communities.

At this time, there are 76,859 active cases across the country. The latest national-level data indicate daily averages of 6,653 new cases (Dec 11-17). COVID-19 is spreading among people of all ages, with high infection rates across all age groups. However, nationally, infection rates remain highest among those aged 80 years and older who are at highest risk for severe outcomes.

Likewise, outbreaks continue to occur in high-risk populations and communities, including hospitals and long term care homes, correctional facilities, congregate living settings, Indigenous communities, and more remote areas of the country. The downstream impacts of weeks and months of elevated disease activity continues to be seen in still rising numbers of severe illness and death, significant disruptions to health services and ongoing challenges for areas not adequately equipped to manage complex medical emergencies.

Nationally, hospitalisations and deaths, which tend to lag behind increased disease activity by one to several weeks, are still increasing. Provincial and territorial data indicate that an average of 3,194 people with COVID-19 were being treated in Canadian hospitals each day during the most recent 7-day period (Dec 11-17), including 650 of whom were being treated in intensive care units. During the same period, there were an average of 115 COVID-19-related deaths reported daily. This situation continues to burden local healthcare resources, particularly in areas where infection rates are highest. These impacts affect everyone, as the healthcare workforce and health system bear a heavy strain, important elective medical procedures are delayed or postponed, adding to pre-existing backlogs.

Canadians are urged to continue with individual practices that keep us and our families safer: stay home/self-isolate if you have any symptoms, follow local public health advice and maintain individual protective practices of physical distancing, hand, cough and surface hygiene and wearing a face mask as appropriate (including when you can not consistently keep two metres apart from people outside 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.

SOURCE Public Health Agency of Canada

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