Statement from the Chief Public Health Officer of Canada on April 26, 2021
April 26, 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.
Trends have been discouraging in recent weeks, but there was some good news presented in last week’s epidemiology and modelling update. In recent days, following the implementation of restrictions in heavily impacted areas of Canada, the national Rt has finally dipped below 1. This means that for the first time in many weeks, the epidemic has dropped out of a growth pattern, primarily driven by recent declines in epidemic growth in British Columbia, Ontario and Quebec. However, Rt is still at or above 1 in other areas of Canada and needs to be maintained consistently below 1 to bring the epidemic under lasting control. This gives us reassurance that strengthened measures can slow growth where more contagious variants are circulating – but sustaining measures and individual practices is the key to driving and keeping growth down!
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 1,178,986 cases of COVID-19, including 86,229 active cases and 23,965 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 a very large 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.
Although COVID-19 activity remains elevated, with a high proportion of cases involving more contagious variants of concern, we are cautiously optimistic that our efforts and strengthened restrictions are beginning to have an impact, as presented in the latest epidemiology and modelling update. However, strong public health measures must be sustained where COVID-19 is circulating and individual precautions are important everywhere. The latest national-level data show a 7-day average of 8,444 new cases daily (Apr 16-22), a 2.6% decrease compared to the previous seven days. For the week of April 11-17, there were on average of 131,086 tests completed daily across Canada, of which 7.4% were positive for COVID-19, an increase from 6.5% the week prior.
Elevated infection rates continue to impact COVID-19 severity indicators, particularly in areas with sustained high levels of disease activity. The rise in severe and critical illnesses continues to place a prolonged and heavy strain on the health system and healthcare workforce. Provincial and territorial data indicate that an average of 4,167 people with COVID-19 were being treated in Canadian hospitals each day during the most recent 7-day period (Apr 16-22) representing a 22% increase over last week. This includes, on average 1,268 people who were being treated in intensive care units (ICU), which is 21% higher than the previous week. The mortality trend is also still on the rise, with the 7-day average of 46 deaths reported daily 11% higher than the week prior.
While COVID-19 continues to impact people of all ages in Canada, infection rates are highest among those under 60 years of age. Likewise, we are seeing an increased number of adults below 60 years of age 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. As of April 25, a total of 90,633 variant of concern cases have been reported across Canada, including 86,938 involving B.1.1.7 variants, 3,152 P.1 variants and 543 B.1.351 variants. These represent the tip of the iceberg, as there are many more COVID-19 cases that have screened positive for mutations indicative of variants of concern. B.1.1.7 continues to account for the majority of these variants in Canada and has replaced the original virus as the dominant strain in several areas. At the same time, the continued rise in P.1 cases remains concerning, particularly with early evidence suggesting 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.
Public Health Agency of Canada
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