Statement from the Chief Public Health Officer of Canada on March 8, 2021


March 8, 2021 | Ottawa, ON | Public Health Agency of Canada

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.

Today marks International Women's Day, a day to celebrate women's leadership and contributions to society and to recognize the women who inspire us. In particular, this year I am reflecting on the tremendous leadership women and girls have shown throughout the pandemic response, whether it be on the front lines in hospitals and long-term care facilities, as part of local grassroots efforts to support the most vulnerable in our communities, or helping with at-home learning and support for our young generation, adding to their many responsibilities. I am encouraged by the fact that the representation of women in health leadership positions is increasing. And, I am proud to be working together with strong scientists as leaders of the pandemic response across the federal government, many provinces and municipalities. We need to continue to build on this leadership and provide opportunities for women and girls to shape our recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic as we strive for a more equitable future for everyone.

As 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. At the same time, the Public Health Agency of Canada is providing Canadians with regular updates on COVID-19 vaccines administered, vaccination coverage and ongoing monitoring of vaccine safety across the country. The following is the latest summary on national numbers and trends, and the actions we all need to be taking to reduce infection rates, while vaccination programs expand for the protection of all Canadians. 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.

Since the start of the pandemic, there have been 886,574 cases of COVID-19, including 22,239 deaths reported in Canada; these cumulative numbers tell us about the overall burden of COVID-19 illness to date. They also tell us, together with results of serological studies, that the vast majority of Canadians remain susceptible to COVID-19. As vaccination programs continue to expand across Canada, there is growing optimism that widespread and lasting immunity can be achieved through COVID-19 vaccination. Recent expert analysis of the efficacy and effectiveness of COVID-19 vaccines in Canada supports that priority vaccination programs are providing strong benefits for those at highest risk of severe outcomes or exposure. These encouraging findings have created opportunities for the safe and effective adjustment of vaccination programs to protect the entire adult population within a short timeframe, while contributing to health equity.

Currently, there are 30,268 active cases across the country. Although COVID-19 activity had been declining nationally from mid-January through mid-February, daily case counts have since levelled off. The latest national-level data show a 7-day average of 2,866 new cases daily (Feb 26-Mar 4). Nationally, severe outcomes continue to decline; however, where infection rates have levelled off or increased, some increases are being seen. Provincial and territorial data indicate that an average of 2,125 people with COVID-19 were being treated in Canadian hospitals each day during the most recent 7-day period (Feb 26-Mar 4), including 559 of whom were being treated in intensive care units. During the same period, there were an average of 41 COVID-19-related deaths reported daily.

The emergence and spread of certain SARS-CoV-2 virus variants is a continuing concern. For the week of February 21-27, there were on average of 103,189 tests completed daily across Canada, of which 3.0 % were positive for COVID-19. Over the past month, genomic sequencing capacity has rapidly increased across Canada, with 10,568 high quality SARS-CoV-2 genomes from 11% of cases sequenced during that time period. As of March 7th, a total of 2,039 variants of concern have been reported across Canada, including 1,905 B.1.1.7 variants, 121 B.1.351 variants and 13 P.1 variants.

Until vaccine access fully expands and sufficient levels of population immunity are achieved, and with the continued increase of cases and outbreaks associated with more contagious variants, we must all remain vigilant with public health measures and individual precautions to prevent a rapid shift in trajectory of the epidemic.

Over the coming weeks and months, it will be important to maintain a high degree of caution. Any easing of public health measures must be done slowly with enhanced testing, screening, and genomic analysis to detect variants of concern. In particular, there must be sufficient contact tracing capacity and supports for effective isolation, given increased transmissibility of variants of concern.

Canadians are urged to remain vigilant, continue following local public health advice, and consistently maintain individual practices that keep us and our families safer: stay home/self-isolate if you have any symptoms, think about the risks and reduce non-essential activities and outings to a minimum, avoid all non-essential travel, and maintain individual protective practices of physical distancing, hand, cough and surface hygiene and wearing a well-fitted and properly worn face mask as appropriate (including in shared spaces, indoors or outdoors, with people from outside of your immediate household).

Aiming to have the fewest interactions with the fewest number of people, for the shortest time, at the greatest distance possible is a simple rule that we can all apply to help limit the spread of COVID-19, while vaccine programs expand to protect all Canadians.

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.

In an earlier version of this statement, I reported there were a total of 1,963 variants of concern reported across Canada. This figure was an underestimate due to an omission. The error has been resolved and the numbers have been updated to reflect the corrected total of 2,039 variants of concern reported as of March 7, 2021.


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Public Health Agency of Canada

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