Canada’s COVID-19 infections are continuing to fall from their third wave peak, with the May long weekend seeing the lowest daily case counts since early March.
Tuesday saw just 2,506 new infections across the country. The last time cases were that low was March 1, when cases had plateaued between the winter’s second wave and the third surge in the spring.
The number also marks a 72 per cent drop from the all-time high of 9,564 new cases reported on April 15.
The Victoria Day weekend saw a steady decline in infections from the end of last week. After 4,000 new cases were reported Saturday, the daily count fell to 3,740 on Sunday and 3,149 on the holiday Monday.
Experts have warned Canada could still see another COVID-19 resurgence similar to past holidays, however, thanks to increased gatherings and “pandemic fatigue.”
Dr. Theresa Tam, Canada’s chief public health officer, said Tuesday the average number of new cases in the last week is about 5,000 per day, down 40 per cent from the peak in mid-April.
The past four days have brought that average down even further, to just 3,910 cases per day since last Wednesday — a drop of 55 per cent from the April peak.
Hospitalizations are down by more than a third from that peak, to about 2,700. Tam said intensive care patients were down 10 per cent to 1,300 as of last Friday.
Yet Canadians are still dying from COVID-19 by the dozens, despite fatalities dropping about 15 per cent over the past two weeks as hospitalizations also fell.
Fifty-one new fatalities were reported Tuesday, while the past week has seen an average of 44 deaths per day.
Canada’s lower case counts are being driven by plummeting infections in Ontario, Quebec, British Columbia and Alberta, all provinces that set new records during their respective third waves.
New surges and clusters in Manitoba and Newfoundland and Labrador are complicating the picture, however.
More than 1,200 cases of COVID-19 were confirmed in Manitoba over the long weekend, giving the province the unwelcome distinction of having the highest new infection rate in North America. Another 259 new cases were reported there Tuesday, along with two more deaths.
Trudeau said Tuesday Ottawa will send federal workers to Manitoba and is also talking to the Canadian Red Cross about more help from them, responding to a formal request from the province for federal assistance.
In Newfoundland, officials are investigating if the B. 1.617.2 variant first detected in India is the culprit of a new cluster of 44 confirmed and presumed cases in the central region, including 11 new ones reported on Tuesday.
Reopenings imminent in other provinces
For most other provinces, officials are becoming more comfortable discussing their reopening plans as infections plummet and vaccinations keep tracking upward.
Dr. Bonnie Henry, British Columbia’s provincial health officer, unveiled a four-stage reopening plan Tuesday that began immediately, including allowing people to socialize with up to 10 people outdoors and up to five people from one other household indoors.
But she said the reopening, which will allow indoor sports without spectators in mid-June, and lift most restrictions by September, will “be flexible” based on what is happening on the ground.
The province reported 289 new infections Tuesday along with one new death.
Ontario reported 1,039 cases Tuesday, its lowest daily report since early March, yet 33 more deaths were also announced.
The province loosened some restrictions over the weekend, opening outdoor sports facilities like golf, tennis and skate parks, and allowing people to gather with up to five people outdoors.
Quebec recorded its lowest number of new cases Tuesday since September, confirming 346 new COVID-19 cases along with six more deaths.
Quebec is lifting all curfews in the province on Friday, and Premier Francois Legault said he anticipates the 10 remaining regions still in a code-red health order will be moved to orange by June 7.
Beginning Sunday in Saskatchewan, gathering sizes will increase, restaurants and bars can open with limited capacity, and group fitness classes can resume as part of the first stage of the province’s reopening plan.
Restrictions on outdoor sports will also be relaxed in the province, which reported 111 new infections and no new deaths Tuesday.
Albertans will be learning more about that province’s reopening strategy Wednesday, as case numbers have fallen from their peak earlier this month.
The province, which had previously seen North America’s highest infection rate, reported 387 new cases and nine more deaths Tuesday.
In the Maritimes, New Brunswick reported nine more cases and Nova Scotia — which saw its own peak of well over 100 daily cases earlier this month — announced 54. Both provinces are holding off on announcing their own reopening plans until infections drop further.
Prince Edward Island, which saw no new cases Tuesday, is expected to unveil its roadmap toward reopening on Thursday.
In the northern territories, only Nunavut reported a single case with no new deaths. Restrictions are beginning to be lifted in that territory, while the Yukon on Tuesday began allowing gatherings of up to 200 people — both indoors and outdoors.
Vaccinations keep climbing
As of Tuesday evening, over 52 per cent of the Canadian population has received at least one vaccine dose, according to COVID-19 Tracker Canada. Nearly 1.7 million people across the country have been fully vaccinated with two doses.
The territories have the highest vaccination rates in the country, with well over 70 per cent of residents having received at least one shot.
To date, 21,637,608 vaccine doses have been administered across Canada, with over 250,000 of them being given in the past day.
All but three provinces have now extended vaccine eligibility to everyone at least 12 years old. Currently, Pfizer-BioNTech is the only vaccine authorized for anyone under 18.
Moderna said Tuesday that results from its clinical trial in kids between 12 and 17 show none of the kids who got two doses of its vaccine developed COVID-19. It intends to apply to Health Canada and other regulators for approval in early June.
Both Pfizer and Moderna are testing their vaccine on children as young as six months now, and hope to apply for approval for kids under 12 by the fall.
Canada has seen a total of 1,365,516 cases of COVID-19 since the pandemic began, of whom 25,324 have died and 1,292,326 have recovered.
Globally, more than 167.6 million infections and 3.48 million deaths have been reported, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University.
The United States continues to lead the world in both cases, at 33.1 million, and deaths, at over 590,000.
— With files from the Canadian Press