Omicron’s community transmission could ‘rapidly escalate’ in coming days, Tam warns

Click to play video: 'Canada’s health-care system braces for impact from Omicron'
Canada’s health-care system braces for impact from Omicron
WATCH: Canada’s health-care system braces for impact from Omicron – Dec 13, 2021

The Omicron COVID-19 variant could ramp up its spread through Canadian communities in the coming days, chief public health officer Dr. Theresa Tam warned on Monday.

The new variant of COVID-19 is also already spreading through neighbourhoods, she warned, and is no longer only tied to travel.

“There is community transmission of (the) Omicron variant in Canada,” Tam said, adding that the variant is “highly transmissible.”

“What we’re seeing in Ontario, I expect to be seen in other areas of the country, as has been seen in Europe and other areas of the world…. We are seeing community transmission, possibly in its early stages, but this can rapidly escalate in the days to come.”

Click to play video: 'COVID-19: Tam says community transmission of Omicron variant occurring in Ontario'
COVID-19: Tam says community transmission of Omicron variant occurring in Ontario
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The Omicron variant is already ripping through countries around the world. It is expected to become the dominant variant in London, England within the next 48 hours, according to Reuters, and is expected to be the most prevalent variant in Denmark by the end of the week.

Canada has heard similarly dire warnings about Omicron’s projected pervasiveness within our own borders.

Click to play video: 'Trudeau says feds ‘very concerned’ over Omicron COVID-19 outlook'
Trudeau says feds ‘very concerned’ over Omicron COVID-19 outlook

According to Tam’s latest COVID-19 projections, which she unveiled on Friday, Canada is currently seeing a Delta variant-driven resurgence of cases. However, if infections keep rising and Omicron takes hold, that variant could outpace Delta and drive infections up to 26,600 a day by mid-January.

Speaking to CP24 on Monday morning, Dr. Peter Jüni, the head of Ontario’s Science Advisory Table, warned that Omicron will become the dominant strain in the province before the end of this week.

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“This variant here is so absolutely infectious now…. This will reach every single person. Statistically speaking, there will be very few lucky ones,” Jüni reportedly said.

“People cannot imagine the sheer scale of what we are talking about here. It is really challenging.”

Tam said the most important thing Canadians can do now is follow public health advice and “get your booster shots.”

“And actually, it is equally, if not more important for those who haven’t had the vaccine to also get the first and second doses, including the younger children,” Tam added.

“But vaccines take the time to, of course, take effect. And in that period of time, the virus can transmit rapidly and spread rapidly among populations.”

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In the meantime, Tam recommended Canadians “observe public health measures” and “reduce those contacts.”

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau also spoke out about Omicron on Monday, admitting that the latest projections have the government feeling “very concerned.”

“We are, obviously, very concerned with the numbers Dr. Tam shared on Friday,” Trudeau said, speaking to reporters Monday morning.

“But I think Canadians are also very aware that we have done many things to keep ourselves safe and we just need to continue them.”

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Above all, Trudeau highlighted the importance of “getting vaccinated.”

Canada reported more than 4,600 new COVID-19 cases on Friday, bringing the total number of active cases over 32,000. Since the vaccination campaign began, over 80 per cent of reported cases have been among the unvaccinated, while just over eight per cent of cases were reported among the vaccinated.

Over 76 per cent of the Canadian population — including those not yet eligible — is fully vaccinated, and 80 per cent have received at least one COVID-19 vaccine dose. Over 86 per cent of those over the age of 12 are fully vaccinated, while just shy of 90 per cent of those over 12 have at least one dose.

— with files from Reuters

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