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COVID-19 in Canada: It's too soon to 'fully ease public health measures,' expect 'bumps' in spread, Dr. Tam reveals

·3-min read
Public Health Agency of Canada
Public Health Agency of Canada

Presenting new COVID-19 modelling data, Dr. Theresa Tam, Canada’s chief public health officer, stated that Canada has made "good progress" on epidemic growth but we are in a position where there could be "bumps" in the trajectory of the pandemic.

"Over the past month, we’ve made good progress in slowing epidemic growth across most jurisdictions in Canada," Dr. Tam said. "However, the latest surveillance data suggest that the rate of decline has slowed somewhat, so it’s not unexpected that we could see some bumps in the trajectory during the months ahead."

Looking at the longer-range forecast, if Canada maintains the current levels of transmission, COVID-19 cases nationally could decline to around 1,000 new cases reported daily. If transmission increases by 15 per cent nationally, daily cases could rise to 3,000.

"Although we are cautiously optimistic about our longer-range trajectory, it is still too soon to fully ease public health measures," Dr. Tam said. "If we were to do so, we could expect to see a rapid rise in cases."

"Now is not the time to let our guard down. We may still be in for a challenging winter and maintaining a cautious approach can help keep us safer as we move indoors, with the arrival of colder weather."

Public Health Agency of Canada
Public Health Agency of Canada

Dr. Tam highlighted that due to "sustained public health measures" Canada's national reproductive number (Rt) has remained below one.

"This means that the epidemic has remained out of a growth pattern nationally," Dr. Tam said. "However, Rt may still be at or above one in some areas."

"To keep the epidemic under control, Rt needs to be maintained consistently below one."

When asked specifically about Dr. Scott Gottlieb, former commissioner of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) saying the COVID-19 pandemic could be over in the U.S. by early January on CNBC’s “Squawk Box,” Canada's chief public health officer maintained that we may still be in for a "bumpy ride" through the winter season in this country.

"I envision that there are bumps in the road because there are regional differences and there can be upsurge in cases in pockets of under-immunization," Dr. Tam said. "I am looking forward to seeing less massive upswings in widespread areas but we've got a little bit of a ways to go."

"This virus has proven time and time again that it can undergo evolution, so we'll still have to monitor that."

Public Health Agency of Canada
Public Health Agency of Canada

The date shows that regions in Canada with a lower vaccination rate are at a greater risk of seeing more COVID-19 cases.

"Theses regions are in a challenging position of having still too low vaccination coverage with ongoing high incidents," Dr. Tam said.

Public Health Agency of Canada
Public Health Agency of Canada

Incidence of reported COVID-19 cases in Canada is now highest among children under 12 years of age, as now older age groups are eligible to receive a full course of COVID-19 vaccines.

Outbreaks have been largely linked to schools and childcare settings, but more severe outcomes tend to be less frequent for this age group.

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