As Canada endures the third wave of COVID-19, a virus that has already claimed tens of thousands of lives within our borders, a World Health Organization adviser has a message for Canadians: “dawn is coming.”
Dr. Peter Singer’s comments come on the heels of soaring COVID-19 case counts in Canada, which peaked at over 9,000 cases daily in mid-April. Ontario in particular has faced a crushing third wave, with record-breaking daily cases and ICUs stretched to their limits.
“It’s the darkness before dawn. There’s really no question that the situation in Canada is very tough. And many, many people are suffering,” Singer, special advisor to the Director-General of the World Health Organization, told The West Block‘s Mercedes Stephenson in an interview.
“This pandemic generally is the worst global public health crisis in one hundred years. So…it is a period of difficulty, but the dawn is coming.”
Canada’s vaccine rollout has been in a race against the emergence of faster spreading and harder-hitting variants of concern, which are rapidly becoming the dominant form of the virus among new cases in Canada. While over 11 million vaccines had been administered in Canada, public health official shared in a Friday briefing that national disease and severity indicators have also increased considerably over the past month.
However, they also had a spark of good news to share with Canadians.
“In recent days, following the implementation of restrictions in heavily impacted areas of Canada, the national Rt has finally dipped below one,” Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Theresa Tam said on Friday.
“This means that for the first time in many weeks, the epidemic has dropped out of a growth pattern.”
And as more Canadians get vaccinated, Tam said the projections indicate Canada could start to reopen as early as mid-July — depending on many variables, including variants, vaccine take up, and adherence to public health measures.
News like this shows a light at the end of the tunnel, according to Singer.
“The vaccines…rolling out, combined with public health measures, means that this pandemic will end,” said Singer.
“That’s the key thing, I think, for people to keep in mind…to make sure they maintain the public health measures, the masking, the physical distancing, avoiding poorly ventilated indoor spaces.”
But no matter what Canada does here at home, Singer said, there is a much bigger question mark that could impact the real end-date of the pandemic.
“Since the beginning of the pandemic, the WHO has fought day and night to end it. And the defining issue, really, for 2021 is vaccine equity,” he said.
The vaccine distribution has been “very inequitable” so far, according to Singer. Of the vaccines distributed around the world to date, 83 per cent of them have gone to either high income or upper middle income countries.
Until COVID-19 is under control in every country, new variants will continue to emerge, he warned, threatening the progress being made in the countries who have been able to inch towards reopening.
“No one is going to get out of this until everyone gets out of it,” Singer said.
“That’s actually how to make Canadians safe as well, is to ensure that the fire is not raging in any country. Because if it’s raging anywhere, it’s going to be throwing off embers everywhere.”