New data from the federal government shows that COVID-19 variants of concern have spurred a resurgence of the pandemic in Canada.
At a press conference on Friday, Dr. Theresa Tam, the country’s chief public health officer, released updated COVID-19 modelling data.
National daily case counts and indicators of severity, such as hospitalizations and deaths, have begun to rise across the country. The pandemic is once again in a “growth pattern.”
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Although incidence rates have declined among older age groups, they have risen in young adults. Those aged 20 to 39 years of age now have the highest incidence rate in Canada.
The short-term forecast, which Tam has said continues to be accurate, shows that cases will increase faster than deaths due to the recent acceleration in new infections.
Canada is currently forecast to see up to 1,005,020 COVID-19 cases and 23,315 virus-related deaths by April 4.
The modelling shows that COVID-19 variants are increasing “rapidly” in several areas across the country.
To date, over 7,100 cases of virus variants have been reported in Canada, with the UK variant – B.1.1.7 – accounting for over 90%.
“More contagious variants like B.1.1.7 can result in a rapid spike of cases, whereas vaccines may be less effective against variants like B.1.351,” Tam said.
“This is a caution that the virus can spread rapidly in any community, particularly when more contagious variants are involved.”
In February, she warned that the variants could spur a strong resurgence of the pandemic if public health measures were lifted.
If the variants continue to spread, longer-range forecasts predict that current community-based public health measures will be insufficient to control rapid growth and resurgence.
However, with a sustained combination of enhanced community-based measures and adherence to individual precautions, growth is forecasted to plateau.
Once the spread of variants is minimized and more Canadians are vaccinated, public health measures can begin to be safely relaxed, Tam said.
“We’ve been saying all along that if we ease measures too soon before enough people are vaccinated, the epidemic will resurge even stronger,” Tam said.
“With [an] increasing circulation of highly contagious variants, the threat of uncontrolled epidemic growth is significantly elevated.”
To date, Canada has seen 951,562 COVID-19 cases and 22,790 virus-related deaths.