Statement from the Chief Public Health Officer of Canada on January 13, 2021

 

OTTAWA, ON, Jan. 13, 2021 /CNW/ - 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.

Since the start of the pandemic, there have been 674,473 cases of COVID-19, including 17,233 deaths reported in Canada; 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. 

In addition to laboratories across Canada conducting testing to confirm COVID-19 infections, the Public Health Agency of Canada's (PHAC) National Microbiology Laboratory (NML) conducts routine genomic sequencing on approximately five per cent of virus samples. Given the recent emergence of COVID-19 virus variants of concern, which appear to be associated with an increased risk of spread, PHAC has been working with provinces, territories and international partners to enhance monitoring for the presence of any virus variants in Canada. As of January 13, provinces and territories have reported 22 cases of the B.1.1.17 (United Kingdom) virus variant and one case of the 501Y.V2 (South Africa) virus variant. Given these virus variants have been reported in multiple countries, the Government of Canada continues to advise Canadians against non-essential travel outside of Canada.

With the current momentum of the epidemic and continued high rates of infection in many areas of the country, rapid accumulation of cases will continue until we can make significant progress in interrupting spread. At this time, there are  80,793 active cases across the country. The latest national-level data indicate daily averages of 7,943 new cases (Jan 6-12). 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 4,509 people with COVID-19 were being treated in Canadian hospitals each day during the most recent 7-day period (Jan 6-12), including 839 of whom were being treated in intensive care units. During the same period, there were an average of 143 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.

As Canada continues on an ever-worsening trajectory amidst the emergence of virus variants of concern, the next few months will be very difficult. The way COVID-19 spreads has not changed, but in the context of high incidence and rapid spread, maintaining constant vigilance with individual public health practices is essential. Likewise, given heavy and still increasing impacts across the health system, our efforts are needed to slow the spread as our hospitals and health workforce face a relentless pace and more difficult choices ahead. Vaccines are a light at the end of the tunnel, but we are not out of the tunnel. Uncertainty and challenges are still ahead of us. We will need to double-down on our efforts, to avoid more tragedy and prepare the ground for the best possible outcome as more COVID-19 vaccines become available to Canadians in the coming months.

As vaccines continue to roll-out across the country, the National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) has updated its recommendations on the use of COVID-19 vaccines to include further guidance in the context of limited vaccine supply. While we continue to prepare the way for widespread and lasting control of COVID-19 through safe and effective vaccines, Canada needs a collective effort, from public health authorities and individuals, as a range of public health measures and restrictions are implemented to interrupt rapid spread of the virus. Canadians are urged to continue following local public health advice and to consistently maintain individual practices that keep us and our families safer: stay home/self-isolate if you have any symptoms, and maintain individual protective practices of physical distancing, hand, cough and surface hygiene and wearing a face mask as appropriate (including in shared indoor spaces with people from 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, including information on COVID-19 vaccination.  

SOURCE Public Health Agency of Canada

 

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