Statement from Chief Public Health Officer of Canada on May 1, 2021

From: Public Health Agency of Canada

May 1, 2021 | Ottawa, ON | Public Health Agency of Canada

The COVID-19 pandemic continues to create stress and anxiety for many Canadians, particularly those who do not have ready access to their regular support networks. Through the Wellness Together Canada online portal, people of all ages across the country can access immediate, free and confidential mental health and substance use supports, 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Today is National Physicians’ Day and as the COVID-19 pandemic continues, placing a prolonged and heavy strain across the health system, I want to acknowledge the incredible commitment and dedication of Canada’s doctors and health workforce. Their tireless efforts under difficult and extraordinary circumstances, strive to provide Canadians with the best level of care, whether in directly caring for COVID-19 patients or in providing services to address other health needs, from mental health and management of chronic diseases to screening and prevention programs. Physicians are also among Canadians’ most trusted sources of information on vaccination. As we close out another National Immunization Awareness Week, with COVID-19 vaccines continuing to role out, I encourage Canadians to reach out to their physicians and other trusted healthcare providers to ask questions and discuss the vital role that vaccines play in protecting us from COVID-19 and other serious vaccine preventable diseases across our lifespan.

On this day, and on behalf of physicians across Canada, I have one more ask. Just as keeping up with routine childhood and adult immunizations is crucial to protecting and preserving our health, it is equally important to keep up with regular health visits, for mental and physical health and overall wellbeing. Health and social service providers have measures in place so you can safely access the care and supports you need.

In particular, it is important to seek care immediately for any more serious signs and symptoms, including those that could be due to COVID-19 or other acute and serious health issues that can escalate quickly. Delaying seeking care can impact your health in the immediate, by exacerbating potentially urgent health conditions, or further down the line by not taking timely action to address chronic or preventable medical conditions.

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 1,219,425 cases of COVID-19, including 83,319 active cases and 24,219 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 large majority of Canadians remain susceptible to COVID-19. Multiple safe and effective COVID-19 vaccines, with unique advantages, are authorised for use in Canada. As vaccine delivery continues to ramp up, there is increasing optimism that widespread and lasting immunity can be achieved through COVID-19 vaccination. Benefits are being seen among groups targeted for priority vaccination and as vaccine coverage increases across Canada, we can expect further benefits to protect more Canadians over the coming weeks and months. As of yesterday, provinces and territories have administered over 13.4 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines and are further expanding programs as supply ramps up at an accelerated pace.

Although COVID-19 activity remains elevated, with an increasing proportion of cases involving more contagious variants of concern, we are cautiously optimistic that our efforts and strengthened restrictions are beginning to have an impact. However, strong public health measures must be sustained where COVID-19 is circulating and individual precautions are important everywhere. The latest national-level data show a 7-day average of 7,892 new cases daily (Apr 23-29), a 7% decrease compared to the previous seven days. For the week of April 18-24, there were on average of 127,111 tests completed daily across Canada, of which 6.6% were positive for COVID-19, a decrease from 7.4% the week prior.

Elevated infection rates continue to impact lagging COVID-19 severity indicators, particularly in areas with sustained high levels of disease activity. The rise in severe and critical illnesses continues to place a prolonged and heavy strain on the health system and healthcare workforce. Provincial and territorial data indicate that an average of 4,382 people with COVID-19 were being treated in Canadian hospitals each day during the most recent 7-day period (Apr 23-29) representing a 5% increase over last week. This includes, on average 1,421 people who were being treated in intensive care units (ICU), which is 12% higher than the previous week. The mortality trend is also still on the rise, with the 7-day average of 50 deaths reported daily.

While COVID-19 continues to impact people of all ages in Canada, infection rates are highest among those under 60 years of age. 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. Variants of concern (VOCs) now represent a majority of COVID-19 cases in Canada, with the B.1.1.7 variant now reported in all provinces and territories and accounting for over 95% of VOCs sequenced to date. As this variant spreads more quickly and has been associated with increased severity, and as vaccines may be less effective against other variants, such as P.1 variant and B.1.351 variant, it is even more important to remain vigilant with measures to suppress 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). As vaccine eligibility expands, Canadians are urged to get vaccinated and support others to get vaccinated as vaccines become available to them.

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