A COVID-19 resurgence is underway in Canada, modelling indicates

A COVID-19 resurgence is underway in Canada, but the latest uptick in cases is not unexpected given the ongoing relaxing of restrictions, according to Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Theresa Tam.

“As of March the 31st, daily average case counts have increased by 28 per cent nationally, indicating a resurgence is underway,” Tam said Friday while presenting the latest national pandemic projections.

The more transmissible BA.2 variant, which is already dominant in some jurisdictions, in addition to peoples’ waning immunity and the return of more in-person activities appear to be associated with the current uptick, according to The Public Health Agency of Canada.

The modelling indicates that, as far as they can be measured given the current level of testing and reporting, cases and severe outcomes have declined significantly since the peak of the Omicron wave. However, disease activity “remains elevated and is rising in some parts of the country.”

“The bottom line is everybody right now, I think, should still wear their mask and keep those layers of measures, no matter where you are in this country. Because, even if you don’t see a resurgence now, you’re probably going to in the next days or weeks and that [taking precautions] will help reduce transmission and make sure that the impact on the health system is lowered,” Tam said.

Deputy Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Howard Njoo told reporters, while there is resurgence in some parts of the country, he’s not ready to say Canada is experiencing a sixth wave that would prompt re-introduction of precautionary measures countrywide.

Federal health officials are cautioning that, given the recent uptick in new cases, hospitalization trends could rise in the weeks, but the impact on the health-care system “could be more manageable.”

While past modelling presentations have included projections for new cases and deaths, the agency did not issue these metrics on Friday, in part because the underlying data previously used to calculate these figures is now lacking.

As COVID-19 restrictions continue to be eased across Canada, now more than two years into the pandemic, Tam said that the country is in a “period of transition.”

As part of this, the Public Health Agency of Canada is anticipating the path out of the pandemic “will not be linear.”

“COVID-19 is expected to be with us for the foreseeable future and we should expect intermittent waves,” reads PHAC’s latest modelling documentation.

The current “realistic scenario” forecasts that over the long-term the virus will continue to transmit at a “low-moderate level,” and future variants will emerge and potentially impact case counts and severe outcomes.

Overall, though, the federal health agency says the situation is “expected to be manageable for health systems without the need for restrictive public health measures.”

Still, PHAC is advising that public health bodies continue monitoring and preparing for the possible emergence of a variant that is “immune evasive.” They consider this a “worst-case scenario.”

Government officials continue to encourage the use of masks, and suggest anyone who’s yet to get a COVID-19 booster dose should do so.

According to PHAC, more than 5.1 million eligible Canadians need one or more doses to complete their primary series, and coverage for first doses among those aged 5-11 “has plateaued” at 57 per cent after increasing by just one per cent in the last month.

The latest data indicates that the hospitalization rate for those who are boosted is 10 times lower than those who are unvaccinated.

Noting that there are additional vaccine options available — the first shipment of the Novavax vaccine arrived this week — Tam said, in light of the current uptick in cases, it’s a good time for those who still haven’t rolled up their sleeves, to get vaccinated.

More to come…

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