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Fourth wave of COVID-19 now underway in Canada, Dr. Theresa Tam says

Click to play video: '4th wave of the COVID-19 pandemic underway in Canada: Dr. Tam' 4th wave of the COVID-19 pandemic underway in Canada: Dr. Tam
WATCH: 4th wave of the COVID-19 pandemic underway in Canada: Dr. Tam – Aug 12, 2021

A fourth wave of the COVID-19 pandemic – driven by the Delta variant – is now underway in Canada, the country’s top doctor said on Thursday.

Dr. Theresa Tam, chief public health officer of Canada, told reporters at a news conference that projections from a few weeks ago have now come to fruition.

“The latest national surveillance data indicate that a fourth wave is underway in Canada and that cases are plotting along a strong resurgence trajectory,” she said, adding the country has 13,000 active cases, which is more than double from two weeks ago.

Click to play video: 'Focusing on Canada’s COVID-19 vaccine hesitant' Focusing on Canada’s COVID-19 vaccine hesitant
Focusing on Canada’s COVID-19 vaccine hesitant – Aug 11, 2021

On average, more than 1,500 new cases are being reported daily, with the majority of them reported in the 20-to-39-year-old age group, she said.

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“After several months of declining severity trends, we’re now seeing early signs of increases in severe illnesses following the recent increase in cases,” Tam said. “On average, 511 people with COVID-19 are being treated in the hospitals each day, an increase of 12 per cent compared to last week.”

Tam added 206 people are in ICUs across Canada, which has levelled off.

Read more: Canada’s Delta-driven 4th wave of COVID-19 will be ‘different’ amid vaccinations: experts

The number of deaths related to COVID-19 remains low, with the country averaging about seven deaths a day.

“While the Delta variant is more contagious, a complete two-dose series of a COVID-19 vaccine still provides substantial protection,” Tam said. “The vast majority of cases and hospitalizations are in those not fully vaccinated.”

To date, close to 82 per cent of eligible Canadians are partially vaccinated, while 71 per cent are fully vaccinated.

Tam called on Canadians who have yet to get vaccinated to do so.

“In particular, during this last stretch, to increase vaccine uptake further across all age groups we need to build up momentum to increase coverage among young adults, the age group where most of the transmission is occurring,” she said.

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“This is could help reduce the size of the fourth wave in the fall and winter, and help limit its impact on our health-care system”

Click to play video: 'Dr. Tam addresses slowdown in COVID-19 vaccine rates among young adults' Dr. Tam addresses slowdown in COVID-19 vaccine rates among young adults
Dr. Tam addresses slowdown in COVID-19 vaccine rates among young adults – Jul 8, 2021

The Delta variant is driving up COVID-19 cases worldwide, and is the dominant mutation of the virus.

A recent CDC report and study showed that the Delta variant could be as contagious as chickenpox and has caused a string of outbreaks even among those who have been vaccinated.

However, Dr. Gerald Evans, chair of the division of infectious diseases at Queen’s University, previously told Global News that Canada’s fourth wave will differ greatly from its previous ones due to its vaccination rate. Even with Canada’s rise in cases, Evans said that they would primarily be in unvaccinated communities.

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Tam added on Thursday that health officials are working with experts across Canada to monitor emerging evidence on the potential need for booster shots on certain populations, like the immunocompromised.

“For now, our top priority remains ensuring as many people in Canada who are eligible are vaccinated,” she said.

Read more: Do Canadians need booster vaccines? Experts echo WHO’s call for pause

Last week, Tam told reporters that Canada still needs more data on boosters before making a decision, but believes that if, or when, the time does come for Canada to offer a third shot, the country could still continue to share doses with the world.

“Without the rest of the world being vaccinated, it’s very difficult for us to get out of the pandemic. Also, it would have impacts, potentially, on our precautionary but phased border reopening,” she said at the time.

“Canada’s has, in its range of acting options, a lot of capacity. So I think we can definitely do both.”

Read more: Canada to donate 10M J&J COVID-19 vaccine doses to poorer countries

As part of Thursday’s announcement, Canada said it will donate 10 million additional doses of the Johnson and Johnson vaccine to low and middle-income countries through the global COVAX sharing program.

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The donation brings Canada’s total contributions to the COVAX facility to more than 40 million COVID-19 doses, making the country one of the leaders in vaccine donation per capita.

Health Canada authorized the Johnson and Johnson vaccine in early March but it has never been used in the country.

— with files from Global News’ Twinkle Ghosh and David Lao

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