Remarks from the Chief Public Health Officer, March 18, 2022
March 18, 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 monitor aspects of their mental well-being.
Following several weeks of declining activity, nationally, average daily case counts are now levelling off, with continued regional variability across the country. As public health measures ease, increased levels of transmission are not unexpected since the SARS-CoV-2 virus is still circulating widely. Severe illness trends are still declining nationally and in most jurisdictions, with the average daily number of people with COVID-19 in hospitals and intensive care units in the past week having declined by 11% and 14% respectively compared to the week prior.
As we expect the SARS-CoV-2 virus to continuously evolve, we are closely monitoring the domestic and international situation and preparing for new variants. The BA.2 sub-lineage of the Omicron variant is increasing in Canada but at a slow rate, while other sub-lineages are declining or stable. The growth rate of BA.2 internationally appears to be highest where there is a combination of low booster coverage and where BA.1 has not already driven high infection rates. While evidence suggests BA.2 is more transmissible than BA.1, BA.2 does not appear to be associated with more severe illness in vaccinated populations. However, it is still capable of causing severe disease among people without prior immunity, which underscores the importance of getting up-to-date with COVID-19 vaccines including a booster if you are eligible.
Over the past two years, Canadians have shown tremendous capacity to adapt to change and uncertainty as the pandemic has evolved. While COVID-19 is here to stay, we are now entering a period with more opportunities for in-person activities, gatherings and travel, some of us may be feeling a greater sense of comfort, while others may feel less at ease.
Many people in Canada may be taking into consideration factors such as COVID-19 vaccination status, the level of COVID-19 activity locally, underlying medical conditions, and risk to personal contacts, to make informed decisions. This includes choosing activities that are best for their individual and family situation and using personal protections. For example, to continue wearing a well-constructed, well-fitting mask as an important added layer of protection, even if not required by local authorities. We know that these proven practices, along with the strong protection afforded by being up-to-date with your COVID-19 vaccines, have reduced the impact and severity of the pandemic.
I encourage Canadians to show each other compassion and respect as we make decisions to protect ourselves, our families and our communities, especially those at highest risk. These times of transition can be challenging and stressful to navigate. If you are having a difficult time, know that you are not alone and help is available. Resources, such as Wellness Together Canada, provide people in Canada of all ages, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, with immediate, free and confidential mental health and substance use supports, including information and practical tools and confidential sessions with social workers, psychologists and other professionals. PocketWell, a free companion app to the Wellness Together Canada online portal, provides another way to access online resources and to measure and monitor aspects of your well-being. Indigenous Peoples can also contact the toll-free Hope for Wellness Help Line.
COVID-19 continues to challenge us and impacts us differently, depending on our circumstances. Let's continue to do what we can to support one another as we navigate the road ahead.
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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