If Canada does not abide by “stringent” public health measures, the country could see a strong resurgence of COVID-19 in the spring because of variants, according to new federal data.
At a press conference on Friday, Dr. Theresa Tam, Canada’s Chief Public Health Officer, released updated COVID-19 modelling data.
The short-term forecast, which Tam has said continues to be accurate in predicting the virus’ growth, shows that the epidemic is slowing.
She noted, though, that cases are still 60% higher than in the peak of the first wave.
Canada is currently forecasted to see up to 878,850 COVID-19 cases and 22,420 virus-related deaths by February 28.
Daily case counts, the number of outbreaks in long-term care facilities, hospitalization rates, and virus-related deaths, have all declined nationally in the last month.
However, long-term forecasts indicate that emerging COVID-19 variants could spur a “strong” resurgence of the virus if public health measures are lifted.
Canada could see upwards of 20,000 new COVID-19 cases per day by March if measures are relaxed, the data shows. Even current public health measures would be “insufficient” to stop a resurgence, Tam said.
To bring the pandemic under control and stop the variants from spreading further, Tam said that enhanced public health measures and strong adherence to individual precautions are needed.
“With highly contagious variants in our midst, the threat of uncontrolled epidemic growth is significantly elevated,” Tam said.
The above slide is “our new reality,” Tam said.
COVID-19 virus variants have now been detected in all provinces, and community spread has been reported, she added.
A total of 664 cases of the UK (B.1.1.7) variant, 39 cases of the South African (B.1.351) mutation, and one case of the Brazilian variant (P.1) have been detected across the country.
Tam said that the B.1.1.7 variant is becoming “very common,” and noted that evidence now shows it may cause a higher risk of severe outcomes, such as hospitalization and death.
To date, Canada has seen 837,497 COVID-19 cases and 21,498 virus-related deaths.