Federal officials warn that Canada could be on the brink of a fourth wave of COVID-19 driven by the Delta variant if the country opens up too quickly before enough people have been vaccinated.
Long-term forecasts released on Friday indicate that a hasty reopening could lead to a strong resurgence of the virus by the end of the summer, Canada’s chief public health officer said as provinces, including the Alberta continued to ease restrictions.
Dr Theresa Tam also urged young adults to get fully immunized as soon as possible, noting that they continue to lag among age groups but are associated with the highest rates of disease transmission.
While robust vaccination rates are already credited with declining hospitalizations and deaths, she said vaccinations need to increase further to avoid further strain on hospitals and the healthcare system.
“Almost 6.3 million people have not yet received a first dose … and more than five million people have not received the second dose,” Tam said at a news briefing in Ottawa.
“This ‘call to arms’ aims to target the stars of immunization coverage. With just over five weeks of Labor Day in Canada, this is a crucial time to strengthen protection before we gather in schools, colleges, universities and workplaces this fall. “
As of Saturday, 89% of people aged 70 and over had received two doses of COVID-19 vaccines, according to government figures.
But only 46 percent of Canadians aged 18 to 29 were fully immunized, as were 54 percent of those aged 30 to 39.
Tam said immunization coverage needs to be over 80% in all age groups to establish better protection.
She said the more infectious Delta variant is expected to gain momentum in unvaccinated young people, fueling a resurgence that could overwhelm healthcare capacities if personal contact increases as well.
The current number of COVID-19 cases has fallen 93% since the peak of wave three, to an average of 640 new infections reported daily in the past seven days, Tam said.
But there are early signs of epidemic growth in parts of the country, Tam said, predicting that cases will increase further as public health measures soften.
Deputy Chief Public Health Officer Howard Njoo added that Canada’s high vaccination rate means that an increase in infections is unlikely to match a marked increase in deaths and hospitalizations, noting that ” ‘is not the same as before ”.
Nonetheless, he warned that millions of unvaccinated Canadians “are really at risk of serious consequences,” and asked, “What are you waiting for?
The warnings come as a chorus of health experts expresses concerns over Alberta’s decision earlier this week to end isolation requirements for those who test positive for COVID-19, or have been in close contact with someone who has been in close contact.
Tam reiterated the importance of quarantines to prevent the spread of COVID-19, urging Albertans to continue to self-isolate, get tested and notify their close contacts even if this is no longer necessary.
There are hundreds of thousands of unvaccinated people in Alberta, Tam said, and there is the potential for large clusters and epidemics of COVID-19.
“The main thing is to get vaccinated. There is still a long way to go in Alberta.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published on July 30, 2021.
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