Remarks from the Chief Public Health Officer on COVID-19, February 9, 2021

Speech

There have been 808,120 cases of COVID-19 in Canada, including 20,835 deaths and 40,175 active cases across the country. Over the past week, there were on average over 103,000 tests completed daily across Canada, of which 3.7% were positive for COVID-19. National daily case counts have been declining for several weeks. Over the past week, there were an average of just over 3,500 new cases reported daily, which is less than half the early January peak of over 8,100 daily cases. This is gratifying progress, knowing the sacrifices we have all been making. And, we are now seeing additional benefits in the steady decline of severe illness outcomes that is relieving some of the pressure on the health system and workforce. Over the past 7 days, the average daily number of people with COVID-19 being treated in Canadian hospitals has declined by 15% to just under 3,300, including 728 in critical care, and fatal cases have dropped by 20% to 100 deaths being reported each day. 

While declining case counts, hospitalisations and deaths are reassuring, we must continue to be cautious. Over the past week, the total number of new virus variant detections has more than doubled. Seven provinces are now reporting variant detections, and the first detection of the P.1 variant that was first found in Brazil, has been reported by Ontario. Although it is normal for variants to emerge as viruses continuously evolve, these are considered “variants of concern” because they are known to spread more easily. There is also a possibility of reduced protection of current vaccines. This is why we need to maintain the strictest vigilance in our public health measures and individual practices. This will help to prevent these variants from reaccelerating the epidemic and making it much more difficult to control.

With now more than 355 B.1.1.7 variants, 25 B.1.351 variants and 1 P.1 variant [first found in the UK, South Africa and Brazil, respectively] reported in Canada, together with evidence of community spread in at least three provinces and links to outbreak activity in long term care homes and other congregate settings, including a workplace - the risk is very real.

But for every dark cloud there is a silver lining and we have several advantage points to work from. First and foremost we know what works to control this virus, whether new variant or old, and second we have the benefit of foresight from other countries who have demonstrated the effectiveness of sustained and vigilant public health measures to control new variant spread.

Our way forward is clear. Right now our measures are working. This means doing everything we’ve been doing but giving it the best we can give, at all times! This simple rule can help us to limit the spread of more transmissible variants while vaccine programs get under way: aim for the fewest interactions with the fewest number of people, for the shortest time, at the greatest distance possible.

Stopping the spread of COVID-19 is up to all of us.

Read my backgrounder to access COVID-19 Information and Resources, including information on vaccination and ways to reduce your risk of infection and spreading the virus to others.

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