On this difficult stretch through the COVID-19 crisis, we can gain strength from good news and focussing on the things we’re grateful for. Over the course of National Volunteer Week, I have been reflecting on the many ways Canadians are helping to support their community. In Saskatchewan, the Regina Community Fridge is aimed at supporting neighbours, by providing free, fresh and healthy food 24/7 in an outdoor fridge, freezer and pantry space, where people can “take what you need, leave what you can”. Regina Community Fridge volunteers acknowledge that some people have experienced stigma when accessing the Fridge, and make efforts to discourage discrimination towards community members. This reminds us that stigma and discrimination can act as a barrier to people seeking care, support and even essential material resources such as food. We all have a role to play in making environments free of stigma and discrimination so that all people have access to the supports and resources as and when they are in need.
As COVID-19 activity continues in Canada, we are tracking a range of epidemiological indicators to monitor where the disease is most active, where it is spreading and how it is impacting the health of Canadians and public health, laboratory and healthcare capacity. At the same time, the Public Health Agency of Canada is providing Canadians with regular updates on COVID-19 vaccines administered, vaccination coverage and ongoing monitoring of vaccine safety across the country. The following is the latest summary on national numbers and trends, and the actions we all need to be taking to reduce infection rates, while vaccination programs expand for the protection of all Canadians.
Since the start of the pandemic, there have been 1,131,773 cases of COVID-19, including 88,327 active cases and 23,667 deaths reported in Canada; these cumulative numbers tell us about the overall burden of COVID-19 illness to date. They also tell us, together with results of serological studies, that a very large majority of Canadians remain susceptible to COVID-19. As vaccine delivery ramps up at an accelerated pace, there is cause for optimism that widespread and lasting immunity can be achieved through COVID-19 vaccination. We now have multiple safe and effective COVID-19 vaccines with unique advantages that are authorised for use in Canada. Vaccine coverage is increasing across Canada, with benefits being seen in prioritized high-risk populations. Ramp up of vaccine supply and acceleration of vaccination programs will return further benefits to protect more Canadians, over the coming weeks and months.
However, with the current acceleration of COVID-19 activity and a concerning rise in the proportion of cases that involve more contagious variants of concern, strong public health measures and individual precautions must be sustained where COVID-19 is circulating. The latest national-level data show a 7-day average of 8,680 new cases daily (April 13 to 19), a 7% increase compared to the previous seven days. Sustained high infection rates are also impacting COVID-19 severity indicators, particularly in areas with elevated disease activity. The rise in severe and critical illnesses is placing renewed strain on the health system and healthcare workforce. Provincial and territorial data indicate that an average of 3,868 people with COVID-19 were being treated in Canadian hospitals each day during the most recent 7-day period (April 13 to 19) representing a 25% increase over last week. This includes, on average 1,170 people who were being treated in intensive care units (ICU), which is 21% higher than the previous week. Mortality trends are also increasing, with a 7-day average of 44 deaths reported daily, which is 31% higher than the week prior.
While COVID-19 continues to impact people of all ages in Canada, infection rates are highest among those aged 20 to 39 years of age. As well, we are seeing an increased number of adults under the age of 60 years being treated for COVID-19 in hospital, including in ICUs. This is a reminder that serious illness can occur at any age and evidence indicates that variants of concern can be associated with more severe illness and increased risk of death. In addition, circulation of COVID-19 in younger, more mobile and socially-connected adults is an ongoing risk for spread into high-risk populations and settings and several jurisdictions have highlighted social gatherings as an important driver for spread. As of April 19, a total of 66,159 variant of concern cases have been reported across Canada, including 63,543 involving B.1.1.7 variants, 2,201 P.1 variants and 415 B.1.351 variants. These represent the tip of the iceberg, as there are many thousands more COVID-19 cases that have screened positive for problematic mutations. Although B.1.1.7, continues to account for the majority of variants of concern in Canada and has likely replaced the original virus in some areas, there has been a concerning rise in P.1 cases in recent weeks. Early evidence suggests that the P.1 variant may reduce the effectiveness of vaccines, making it even more important to control its spread.
Canadians are urged to remain vigilant, continue following local public health advice, and consistently maintain individual practices that keep us and our families safer: stay home/self-isolate if you have any symptoms, think about the risks and reduce non-essential activities and outings to a minimum, avoid all non-essential travel, and maintain individual protective practices of physical distancing, hand, cough and surface hygiene and wearing a well-fitted and properly worn face mask as appropriate (including in shared spaces, indoors or outdoors, with people from outside of your immediate household).
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 and by downloading the COVID Alert app to break the cycle of infection and help limit the spread of COVID-19. 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.
SOURCE Public Health Agency of Canada