The fourth wave of the COVID-19 pandemic appears to have levelled off across Canada, according to officials from the Public Health Agency of Canada, though they warn that public health measures need to be maintained in order to keep COVID-19 cases at bay.
New modelling presented by PHAC on Friday suggests that if current transmission levels are maintained, the number of new daily cases could decline in the coming weeks.
Progress hasn’t been even across Canada, officials say, but overall, numbers give “reason for optimism” said Dr. Theresa Tam, chief public health officer of Canada.
“With the level of vaccine coverage that we have achieved in Canada to date, we are much better protected going into the respiratory infection season, and today’s modelling update shows that by maintaining basic and less restrictive measures such as masking and limiting close contact, we could reduce the impact of COVID-19 this winter,” Tam said.
For the first time since mid-July, the reproduction number of COVID-19 has dropped below one, she noted – meaning that the pandemic is no longer growing.
However, if transmission increases by just 15 per cent in the next few months, there could be a considerable resurgence of the virus this winter, she warned. For this reason, officials urge Canadians to continue to follow public health advice ahead of the Thanksgiving long weekend.
Case counts across Canada, while they have levelled off, still remain high, officials said. Infection rates are “exceedingly high” in some areas, they added.
“We are far from declaring the pandemic over,” said Dr. Howard Njoo, deputy chief public health officer.
Vaccination remains key, the officials said, noting that unvaccinated individuals are 10 times more likely to catch COVID-19 and 36 times more likely to be hospitalized with the disease, compared with fully vaccinated individuals.
And as Health Canada examines an application from Pfizer-BioNTech for its COVID-19 vaccine to be used in children aged five to 11, Tam said that if approved, such a vaccine could make a considerable difference in Canada’s fight against COVID-19.
It’s a bit late for vaccinating children to have an impact on the fourth wave, she said, but “if you have kids age five to 11 vaccinated, it will make a difference over the longer term in terms of transmission.”
“Primarily, we want to vaccinate the kids because the vaccine offers them good protection against being infected themselves,” she said. “And even if serious outcomes are rare, some kids will get seriously sick.”
Still, she said, vaccinating kids will help overall.
“I think the pediatric vaccines offer the next bright light of hope on our horizon, and it will add another layer of protection.”