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Future waves of COVID-19 likely as Canada undergoes “period of transition”: Tam

Progress will not be linear, bumps likely along the way, chief health officer says
Chief Public Health Officer of Canada Dr. Theresa Tam speaks during a news conference on the COVID-19 pandemic in Ottawa on Tuesday, Dec. 22, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang

Canada’s chief public health officer warned Friday that Canadians should keep wearing masks and ensure vaccinations are up to date amid rising COVID-19 case counts and reduced public health measures.

“I think the bottom line is everybody right now should still wear that mask and keep those layers of measures, no matter where you are in this country,” said Dr. Theresa Tam.

Tam said the country is in a period of pandemic transition that might see further waves of COVID-19 cases this year.

“We anticipate that progress will not be linear, and there will likely be more bumps along the way, including resurgence in cases this spring, and likely also in the fall and winter,” Tam said during a news briefing.

COVID-19 is still circulating widely and the risk of re-emergence remains, Tam cautioned.

Canada is observing a steady increase in the BA.2 variant of COVID-19, and ongoing genomic surveillance will remain crucial for monitoring variants of concern, she said.

Keeping an eye on wastewater trends can also be a helpful “early warning system” for monitoring COVID-19 transmission in communities and identifying circulating variants, said Tam.

She will be encouraging provinces and territories to keep up COVID-19 testing capacity, and to continue to offer tests to their populations.

An increase in in-person activities, the presence of the BA.2 variant and waning immunity might have played a part in increase in transmission of the virus.

Tam said that as of Thursday, daily average case counts had increased by 28 per cent nationally from the previous week, suggesting a resurgence is underway.

A corresponding rise in hospitalizations might soon be seen, Tam said, noting these trends could vary by region.

But she added Canadians are now in a better position to live with the virus, and the overall effect on the health-care system might be more manageable due to high immunity in the population from vaccination and recent infection.

“The key is whether we can keep those hospitalizations and severity trends down.”

Tam said weighing spread of the virus against the need for society to return to its routines will be a “difficult balance.”

She encouraged anyone eligible to go receive their booster dose, noting that Canadians 50 years and older are seeing a gap in booster coverage, a group at higher risk of hospitalization and serious illness.

The National Advisory Committee on Immunization is also looking at whether a second booster shot is needed, Tam said.

—Erika Ibrahim, The Canadian Press

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