Remarks from the Chief Public Health Officer on COVID-19, March 2, 2021

Speech

To date, there have been 870,033 cases of COVID-19 in Canada, including 22,017 deaths. Following a month-long decline in COVID-19 activity, daily case counts have levelled off and we are now seeing a moderate increase nationally. There are now 30,430 active cases across the country. Over past week, an average of 2,933 new cases and 42 deaths were reported daily. During the same time period, 2,169 people with COVID-19 were being treated in our hospitals each day, including 568 in critical care.

When case counts remain elevated or increase further, the concern is that we will soon see an impact on hospitalisation, critical care and mortality trends. At the same time, the number of cases involving more contagious variants of concern, continues to increase. As of March 1st, a total of 1,257 B.1.1.7 variants, 99 B.1.351 variants and 3 P.1 variants have been reported across Canada. Although the highest numbers have been reported in the more heavily impacted provinces, no province has been spared. Smaller provinces in the Atlantic region show us that after many months of strong control, the situation can quickly get out of hand once more contagious variants are introduced. By the same measure, these provinces demonstrate that quick, strong public health action is the best way to regain control.

On the hopeful side of the “Vaccines versus Variants” leg of this marathon, we are gaining more ground everyday. Last week Health Canada authorised two additional safe and effective COVID-19 vaccines. We now have four different COVID-19 vaccines, with unique advantages, but all contributing to the reduction of severe COVID-19 illness and death in Canada. To that end, yesterday the National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI), updated its guidance to include recommendations on the use of the newly authorised AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine formulations for optimal public health benefit. NACI is also assessing the time interval between the first and second doses of currently authorized COVID-19 vaccines to allow as many people as possible to be vaccinated while not compromising vaccine effectiveness. NACI is currently considering evidence from the latest scientific studies and is aiming to provide their recommendations this week.

As the science of COVID-19 vaccination continues to evolve, expert advice is being adapted to maximize the benefits of authorized vaccines. Canadians continue to support these efforts, not only by the sacrifices we’ve made to buy time for research and innovation, but also through incredible levels of engagement, learning and trust in the scientific process. This has been a difficult and long journey, but I know we remain steadfast in our resolve to see things through.

Aiming for the fewest interactions with the fewest number of people, for the shortest time, at the greatest distance possible is how we can all contribute our personal best to limit the spread of COVID-19, while vaccine programs continue to expand to protect all Canadians. 
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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