Statement from the Chief Public Health Officer of Canada on April 7, 2021
April 7, 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 is World Health Day and this year’s theme, “building a fairer, healthier world”, is a reminder of the inequitable impact that COVID-19 has had for many people in Canada and globally. Equity matters – not only to those who are unjustly excluded – but for all of us. There are evidence-based actions we can support and take, to equitably protect people from the negative impacts of health crises. Throughout the COVID-19 response, there have been significant investments in high impact areas such as income supports and safe accommodations. But, there is more we can do. On a practical level, in order to design the most effective interventions, we need data that specify risks and outcomes for particular populations in order to see where inequities may lie. Through initiatives like the Health Inequalities Data Tool, the Public Health Agency of Canada is working alongside Statistics Canada, provincial and territorial partners, national Indigenous and non-Indigenous data custodians, and other stakeholders to strengthen access to and use of health data that are disaggregated by gender, age, income, education, immigrant status, disability, racial/ethnic background, and other meaningful social and economic group characteristics.
We also need to continue working across sectors such as health, employment, community services, housing and education to improve the level of protection we can provide across the population. The health system alone cannot achieve an equitable pandemic recovery. Innovative, flexible collaborations and initiatives are needed to level the playing field. This involves partnerships across government, civil society, community and the private sector: a whole-of-society approach. These initiatives can be big and small, right down to the actions we take in our own communities. Building in actions to address inequities, prioritizing interventions that support good health and safe recovery, makes us stronger and more united.
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 1,020,893 cases of COVID-19, including 60,299 active cases and 23,141 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 ongoing and rapid increase in COVID-19 activity over several weeks 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 seven-day average of 6,328 new cases daily (March 31 to April 6). Sustained high infection rates are also impacting COVID-19 severity indicators, which are increasing, 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 2,423 people with COVID-19 were being treated in Canadian hospitals each day during the most recent seven-day period (March 31 to April 6), including 807 of whom were being treated in intensive care units. During the same period, there were an average of 31 COVID-19-related deaths reported daily.
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 intensive care units. 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 6, a total of 16,127 variant of concern cases have been reported across Canada, including 14,790 involving B.1.1.7 variants, 1,000 P.1 variants and 337 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.
Amid the concerning trends of increasing disease activity, shifting severity trends, and a rising proportion of cases involving variants of concern, a high degree of caution must be maintained, while vaccination programs continue to accelerate. Any easing of public health measures must be done slowly, informed by an assessment of key indicators and local circumstances, and accompanied by enhanced testing, screening, and genomic analysis to detect and respond to variants of concern quickly. 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, while wearing the best-fitting mask is a simple rule that we can all apply to help limit the spread of COVID-19, as 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.
Public Health Agency of Canada
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