Statement from the Chief Public Health Officer of Canada on April 1, 2022
April 1, 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.
For additional COVID-19 data and analyses, the PHAC posts the following reports:
- Daily Epidemiological Update,
- COVID-19 vaccine coverage data,
- Reported Side Effects Following COVID-19 Vaccination in Canada
- COVID-19 trend reports, including weekly case by case Epidemiological Report
Today's Epidemiology and Preparedness technical briefing reminds us that COVID-19 will be with us for the foreseeable future. While there is considerable uncertainty regarding possible future trajectories, we do expect further ups and downs over the coming months. Although Canada's overall high vaccination coverage, and a range of surveillance, public health measures, treatment and other tools can provide us better protection going forward, we must still prepare for possible resurgence including this spring and fall.
PHAC is preparing against two key scenarios for the longer term. A realistic scenario could be one in which we have low to moderate ongoing virus transmission in Canada, with intermittent waves as new variants emerge or population immunity wanes. While less likely, we are also monitoring and preparing for a reasonable worst-case scenario that could involve emergence of a virus variant of concern that has both the ability to evade prior immunity and cause more severe disease. This latter scenario could result in substantial strain impacting healthcare systems, potentially necessitating the return of more restrictive measures.
However, in the near term, the most significant risk could involve a COVID-19 resurgence that coincides with the return of other respiratory viruses, including influenza. Thus, continuing to adapt to the ongoing management of COVID-19 with the goal of reducing serious outcomes and impact on our health systems while minimizing societal disruption, as well as preparing for a possible worst-case scenario will put us in a better position to face whatever our COVID-19 future brings.
With a shift to more targeted testing, a range of other indicators, from laboratory test positivity and wastewater surveillance to daily numbers of people in hospitals and critical care continue to be important for ongoing monitoring trends. Not unexpectedly, the increase in in-person activities following easing of public health measures, together with spread of the more transmissible BA.2 variant and some waning of immunity, may be contributing to increased transmission. Daily average case counts have increased by 28% nationally, indicating a resurgence is underway at the national level (Mar 25-31, 2022). Likewise, laboratory test positivity during the latest 7 day period (Mar 23-29, 2022) increased to 16%, and community wastewater data signal a rising trend in a number of local areas.
Currently, declines in lagging indicators of severe illness are levelling off. As with disease activity indicators, these trends show considerable variability regionally and are likely to follow the rising trend of cases to some degree over the coming weeks. The latest provincial and territorial data shows that the average number of people with COVID-19 being treated in hospitals each day during the most recent 7-day period (Mar 25-31, 2022), was 4% higher than last week. During the same time period, the number of people who were being treated in intensive care units (ICU) daily decreased by 4% compared to the prior week, and an average of 36 deaths were reported daily (Mar 25-31, 2022). Keeping infection rates down remains key to further reducing severe illness trends and protecting vulnerable populations over the coming weeks.
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. In several jurisdictions, the BA.2 sub-lineage of the Omicron variant is now the predominant variant. 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 BA.2 is more transmissible than BA.1, it appears to have a similar severity and symptom profile and up-to-date COVID-19 vaccination, including a booster dose, is still expected to provide substantial protection against severe outcomes.
The latest provincial and territorial data indicate that over 81% of the total population are now fully vaccinated. Age-specific vaccine coverage data, as of March 27, 2022, show that over 88% of people 12 years or older have at least one dose and over 85% are fully vaccinated, while among children aged 5-11 years of age, 57% have at least one dose.
Health authorities continue to strongly recommend up-to-date COVID-19 vaccination for all eligible people, including for those who have had or may have had a COVID-19 infection. All told, over 5.1 million eligible Canadians need one or more doses to complete their primary series and many others are eligible to get a booster dose to help improve protection that may have decreased since their second dose and to provide even better protection against severe illness from Omicron. In particular, getting a booster dose if you are eligible, and especially for those aged 50 years of age or older, is very important. Recent studies indicate that an mRNA COVID-19 vaccine booster dose enhances the overall immune response, which can provide longer lasting protection and possibly better effectiveness against variants. As of March 31, over 17.8 million third doses have been administered to date. National data as of March 27, 2022 indicate that over 83% of seniors aged 70 years or older and 61%-75% of 50-69 year olds have received an additional dose.
As we move into a transition phase of the pandemic and beyond, our best advantage will be to maintain caution and a state of readiness as we prepare our surge capacity for future response, while not forgetting the personal protective habits we have learned. At the individual level, this can be best achieved by keeping COVID-19 vaccinations up-to-date, including getting a booster dose when eligible and continuing to observe public health advice tailored to local epidemiology and circumstances to guide your individual and family risk assessment and decisions on use of personal protective practices. In particular, properly wearing a well-fitted and well-constructed face mask, avoiding crowding, and getting the best ventilation possible in indoor spaces, are layers of protection that can reduce your risk in all settings.
The Government of Canada is supporting the Ryerson My COVID-19 Visit Risk tools (Visit Risk Calculator and Visit Risk Decision Air) to provide people in Canada with reliable information and tools to help them assess and reduce their individual risk of COVID-19 infection when visiting or gathering with others. This web-based tool is based on the best available scientific evidence, and contributions from a large group of public health and infectious disease experts in Canada. It will continue to be enhanced and updated to ensure it remains a viable option for people to use.
We can also stay healthier by getting up-to-date with other recommended vaccines and routine vaccines for children and adults. For additional information regarding vaccination in your area, reach out to your local public health authorities, healthcare provider, or other trusted and credible sources, such as Immunize.ca and Canada.ca, which includes information to help Canadians understand the benefits of being vaccinated against COVID-19.
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. 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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