Remarks from the Chief Public Health Officer on Feb 11, 2022
February 11, 2022 | 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. PocketWell, a free companion app to the WTC online portal, provides another way to help Canadians access online mental health and substance use resources, and measure and track aspects of their mental well-being.
Indicators of COVID-19 disease spread, including lab test positivity, Rt (or effective reproduction number), wastewater surveillance trends, and daily reported cases all indicate Canada is past the peak of the Omicron wave. Although the latest national 7-day average remains above 11,000 new cases reported daily, weekly declines were reported by all jurisdictions across Canada.
Severe illness trends remain high or are still increasing in some areas of the country. However, we are starting to see hopeful signs, with weekly reductions reported in most jurisdictions. Compared to last week's update, there are now on average 1,400 fewer people with COVID-19 being treated in hospitals each day. However, that's still a 7-day average of over 8,700 each day, including over 1,000 in intensive care -- and 130 deaths were reported daily.
As we continue to take measures to mitigate the ongoing impact of COVID-19 on the health system, health authorities across Canada are looking ahead to longer-term sustainable management of the SARS-CoV-2 virus. This includes transition plans for the immediate future as epidemiologic indicators of COVID-19 disease activity continue to improve. This will allow jurisdictions to begin to ease restrictions. It also includes planning for the months ahead and beyond, when we can expect the virus to still be with us, including emergence of new variants with uncertain transmission and severity characteristics.
However, what will not change, is the advantage to be gained by maintaining a state of readiness. This includes monitoring to detect signals of concern that can enable early and appropriate public health response at the population level. At the same time, providing guidance and tools to support risk-based decision making can continue to empower individuals, families and communities to reduce their risks through personal protective practices.
Moving into the longer-term, we can rely on the strong foundation of protection gained through science-based development and application of a range of interventions. These tools, including testing, public health measures, vaccines, clinical management and treatments, have worked to substantially minimize the overall impact and severity of the COVID-19 pandemic to date. And though resurgence is still possible, especially as public health measures ease, increasing availability and rapid application of these tools can help to lessen the impact on hospitals. Moreover, they can help protect our most vulnerable populations and minimise the need for broad restrictive measures going forward.
This has been a long and difficult struggle and while this may not be the longer-term future we would have wished for, there is a lot to be grateful for. Reminding ourselves of how we've kept working together across the country, learned to protect ourselves and each other in the face of uncertainty, and adapted to changing circumstances is a testament to our resilience. More importantly, it is the perspective we need to feel assured that, with continued innovation and creativity, we can successfully adapt and overcome the challenges ahead.
For now, during this transition phase, it is particularly important to relieve the pressure on our hospitals, by closing vaccine coverage gaps and maintaining core personal protective practices. In particular, millions of eligible Canadians could reduce their risk of ending up in hospital with severe COVID-19 disease by getting up-to-date with vaccination.
Evidence shows that two doses of COVID-19 vaccines offer reasonably good protection against severe disease, and receiving an mRNA booster dose when eligible offers superior protection, keeping more people out of hospital and preventing more deaths.
However, as no vaccine is one hundred percent effective and immunity may decrease over time, maintaining personal protective measures - such as wearing a good quality, snug-fitting mask, avoiding crowding, and improving ventilation in indoor spaces continue to be important risk reduction measures now and going forward.
Read my backgrounder to access COVID-19 Information and Resources, including information on vaccination and ways to reduce your risk of infection and spreading the virus to others.
Public Health Agency of Canada
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