Statement from the Chief Public Health Officer of Canada on April 15, 2021


April 15, 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.

This year, we are celebrating the 100th anniversary of the discovery of insulin at the University of Toronto. This milestone in Canadian history has saved millions of lives worldwide. It reminds us of how far we have come, and how far we can go, through dedicated research, innovation and bold ideas. Yesterday, the Government of Canada and the World Health Organization co-hosted the Global Diabetes Summit in commemoration of this important 100th anniversary and to bring attention to the increasing global public health burden of diabetes.

As the world continues to focus on the COVID-19 response, we must not lose sight of other important health and wellness concerns, including the impact of diabetes on Canadians. In fact, those who experience social and economic inequities face a higher risk of developing diabetes and other chronic diseases, which puts them at greater risk of severe illness from COVID-19. This is why equity matters and we must do more to support communities disproportionately affected by chronic diseases and COVID-19. At the same time, it is also more important than ever to reduce your risk of diabetes by being physically active, eating well, and not smoking. With Spring upon us, take this opportunity to get outside and be active, while still following local public health advice and maintaining individual public health practices!

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.

Since the start of the pandemic, there have been 1,087,152 cases of COVID-19, including 80,201 active cases and 23,445 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 vaccine delivery ramps up at an accelerated pace, there is cause for optimism that widespread and lasting immunity can be achieved through COVID-19 vaccination. We now have multiple safe and effective COVID-19 vaccines with unique advantages that are authorised for use in Canada. Vaccine coverage is increasing across Canada, with benefits being seen in prioritized high-risk populations. Ramp up of vaccine supply and acceleration of vaccination programs will return further benefits to protect more Canadians, over the coming weeks and months.

However, with the current acceleration of COVID-19 activity and a concerning rise in the proportion of cases that involve more contagious variants of concern, strong public health measures and individual precautions must be sustained where COVID-19 is circulating. The latest national-level data show a 7-day average of 8,445 new cases daily (April 8 to 14), a 29% increase compared to the previous seven days. Sustained high infection rates are also impacting COVID-19 severity indicators, particularly in areas with elevated disease activity. The rise in severe and critical illnesses is placing renewed strain on the health system and healthcare workforce. Provincial and territorial data indicate that an average of 3,322 people with COVID-19 were being treated in Canadian hospitals each day during the most recent 7-day period (April 8 to 14) representing a 34% increase over last week. This includes, on average 1,021 people who were being treated in intensive care units (ICU), which is 22% higher than the previous week. If the rise in severe illness trends persists, we could see a gradual increase in the mortality trend. Last week, there were an average of 39 deaths reported daily, which is 27% higher than the week prior.

While COVID-19 continues to impact people of all ages in Canada, infection rates are highest among those aged 20 to 39 years of age. As well, we are seeing an increased number of adults under the age of 60 years being treated for COVID-19 in hospital, including in ICUs. This is a reminder that serious illness can occur at any age and evidence indicates that variants of concern can be associated with more severe illness and increased risk of death. In addition, circulation of COVID-19 in younger, more mobile and socially-connected adults is an ongoing risk for spread into high-risk populations and settings and several jurisdictions have highlighted social gatherings as an important driver for spread. As of April 14, a total of 46,677 variant of concern cases have been reported across Canada, including 44,447 involving B.1.1.7 variants, 1,850 P.1 variants and 380 B.1.351 variants. Although B.1.1.7, continues to account for the majority of variants of concern in Canada and has likely replaced the original virus in some areas, there has been a concerning rise in P.1 cases in recent weeks. Early evidence suggests that the P.1 variant may reduce the effectiveness of vaccines, making it even more important to control its spread.

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).

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.

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