Remarks from the Chief Public Health Officer on COVID-19, March 5, 2021

Speech

The COVID-19 pandemic continues to create stress and anxiety for many Canadians, particularly those who do not have ready access to their regular support networks. Through the Wellness Together Canada online portal, people of all ages across the country can access immediate, free and confidential mental health and substance use supports, 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

To date, there have been 878,391 cases of COVID-19, including 22,151 deaths and just over 29,900 currently active cases reported across Canada. Over the past week, an average of 2,866 new cases and 41 deaths were reported daily. At the same time, over 2,100 people with COVID-19 were being treated in our hospitals each day, including about 560 in critical care. To date, almost 1,650 variant of concern cases have been reported across Canada, with the B.1.1.7 variant accounting for over 90 % of these to date. This includes 1,532 B.1.1.7 variants, 114 B.1.351 variants and 3 P.1 variants reported to date in Canada.

Although, the decline in daily cases has levelled off in recent weeks, we are making important progress with COVID-19 vaccines. With continued public health measures and individual precautions to keep infection rates in check, there is growing optimism that we can achieve significant protection across the population in the weeks and months ahead. However, with the continued increase of cases involving more contagious variants, we need to remain vigilant as the trajectory could change quickly. Over the last month, Canada has rapidly increased capacity to screen for variants of concern and is now sequencing over 10,500 high quality virus genomes or 11 % of all cases.

To date, more than 2.1 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines have been administered in Canada. Over the past week, provinces and territories have administered more than 397,000 doses of COVID-19 vaccines, which is the highest number of vaccines administered in a single week since vaccination began in mid-December.

With Health Canada’s authorisation of the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccines, developed in partnership with Oxford University, and the Serum Institute of India’s version of the Astra Zeneca vaccine, we now have additional vaccine options to provide protection for millions more Canadians. In addition, after an expert review of studies showing sustained high levels of protection after the first dose of COVID-19 vaccines, Canada’s National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) released recommendations that could provide access to more people, faster. Based on evidence from clinical trials and real-world vaccination programs in Canada and worldwide, NACI finds that extending the administration of second doses by up to 4 months, could provide a safe and effective means to vaccinate more people sooner, while vaccine supply continues to expand in parallel. Another piece of good news today is that Health Canada has authorised Johnson and Johnson’s  single-dose Janssen COVID-19 vaccine.

As we continue making important progress, I urge Canadians to stay vigilant, follow local public health advice, and keep up with individual practices that protect us and our families. I continue to be heartened by the stories of Canadians coming to receive their vaccines, from Gurdeep Pandher celebrating by dancing bhangra on a frozen lake in the Yukon to the joy and relief displayed by seniors in Montreal who received the first doses at a vaccination clinic for the community. We are all contributing to great achievements across Canada and around the world.

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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