Statement from the Chief Public Health Officer of Canada on April 8, 2021
April 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.
Yesterday, the National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) released a full advisory committee statement on extended dose intervals for COVID-19 vaccines to optimize early vaccine rollout and population protection in Canada in the context of limited vaccine supply. This release is a follow-up to the rapid response statement on March 3, 2021, which recommended jurisdictions extend the time between the first and second dose of COVID-19 vaccines up to a maximum of four months in order to protect more people in Canada more quickly, saving lives and reducing illness while not compromising vaccine safety or effectiveness. The full statement provides a more detailed overview of NACI's considerations and includes detailed summaries of evidence updated to reflect the most recent data. NACI will continue to monitor the evolving evidence and update its recommendations as needed. In addition, the Council of Chief Medical Officers of Health also released a statement yesterday in support of NACI's recommendations on vaccine dose intervals.
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 1,028,041 cases of COVID-19, including 62,136 active cases and 23,173 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 6,562 new cases daily (April 1 to 7). 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 2,490 people with COVID-19 were being treated in Canadian hospitals each day during the most recent seven-day period (April 1 to 7), including 836 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 7, a total of 16,864 variant of concern cases have been reported across Canada, including 15,499 involving B.1.1.7 variants, 1,023 P.1 variants and 342 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.
Several jurisdictions have highlighted social gatherings as an important driver for spread. Yet, amid a rising proportion of cases involving variants of concern, escalating infection rates in many areas of the country, and increasing severity trends, a high degree of caution must be maintained until vaccination programs are further expanded. A combination of strong and sustained community-based public health measures and strict adherence to individual precautions is crucial in order to suppress rapid epidemic growth.
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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