Remarks from the Chief Public Health Officer, March 4, 2022
March 4, 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.
Nationally, weekly case counts are down by 4.5% compared to last week and average daily numbers of people with COVID-19 in hospitals and ICUs have declined by over 15%. However, the SARS-CoV-2 virus is still circulating widely and the epidemiological situation is variable across the country. While some jurisdictions are currently reporting increased case counts, ongoing easing of public health measures could lead to increased transmission in more areas over the coming weeks.
Although uncertainties remain in how the trajectory, and the virus itself, might evolve going forward, there is no doubt that our best bet is to maintain vigilance. We should not forget the personal protective habits we have learned, as we resume activities and return to more settings.
Next week will be the two year anniversary of the WHO characterising COVID-19 as a pandemic. Since then, we have had an intense apprenticeship in the prevention and control of this new disease. Individually and collectively, we’ve learned so much about how the virus behaves and what measures work to reduce the risk of exposure and spreading the virus. By getting vaccinated, millions of Canadians have increased their protection against serious illness. And we have all taken measures to protect ourselves and others by being aware of the risks in our communities, staying home when we are sick, adjusting plans, and adding other layers of protection, such as wearing masks.
Now with a strong foundation of protection from vaccines, proven practices to reduce spread, and less intense pressure on our health system, we need to turn our focus to easing societal disruption. But regaining in-person social and economic activities, while the pandemic is still ongoing and the virus is not going away, means we must use all that we have learned to do this safely and make it last.
With March break coming up, there will be more opportunities for gatherings, travel and activities.
Going forward individual risk assessments can become another one of our good habits, as important and routine as checking the weather, to decide what activities are best to do and what essentials to bring with us. Regularly checking in on the local epidemiology where you are or where you are going is important for keeping up with recommendations –as well as for making informed decisions on what precautions to use.
In particular, if you are travelling this March break, getting up-to-date with COVID-19 vaccines -- including getting a booster dose if you are eligible and especially for those aged 50 years of older – is important preparation for safer activities and travels. And whether or not they are required in the places or settings you are in, masks remain an important layer of protection. While the virus is still circulating, mask wearing and other personal protective practices offer a way for you and your family to reduce your risk of exposure and spreading the virus.
Getting back to more of the people, places and activities we love is important. This is a time of recovery, as well as time to address the broader impacts of the pandemic, while being ready to respond to future potentially severe waves. By continuing to work together and supporting those at the highest risk in our communities, we will be better equipped to work through future challenges that may come our way.
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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