There are growing concerns that the spread of more contagious COVID-19 variants could spark a third wave of the coronavirus in Canada as provinces ease restrictions.
All 10 provinces have now reported at least one case of the variant first detected in the United Kingdom. Other “variants of concern” from South Africa and Brazil have also made their way into the country.
With a downward trend of daily cases, Canada is seemingly wrestling through the tail end of a second wave. But public health officials and infectious diseases experts are already raising the alarm bells on a third peak.
“The combination of that optimism from a successful lockdown leading to governments wanting to reopen and the background of these variants of concern emerging, plus, delays in the vaccine arrival is setting up really this perfect storm for a massive third wave,” said Dr. Brooks Fallis, a critical care physician in Toronto.
In the largest province of Ontario, 27 regions will begin a gradual reopening on Tuesday against the backdrop of stark scientific modelling that has predicted a third wave of infections and the potential of a third lockdown.
Modelling released on Feb. 11 showed that if public health measures are lifted, the variant first identified in the U.K., which will likely become the dominant version of the virus in the province, could lead to as many as 6,000 daily cases by the end of March.
Following a strict lockdown, Quebec reopened non-essential retail stores, personal-care salons and museums reopened across the province last week. On Feb. 8, Alberta restaurants were also allowed to reopen for in-person dining. Meanwhile, since January, several provinces in Canada have resumed in-person learning at schools.
Coronavirus: Ontario could see 3rd wave due to increase in variants
Jean-Paul Soucy, an infectious disease epidemiologist and PhD student at the University of Toronto, said based on the current trajectory of the variants and the decision-making by governments, the third wave could come in mid to late March and early April.
“We’re looking at two different epidemics almost at this point,” he said, adding that the exponential growth of the new variants is gradually replacing the old strain of COVID-19.
But, since vaccinations for the general population are not expected to start until April, it is less likely that the COVID-19 vaccines could prevent a third wave, Dr. Isaac Bogoch, an infectious diseases specialist and physician at Toronto General Hospital, said.
“A third wave is a very reasonable possibility, but it is not inevitable,” he told Global News.
If a third wave does hit the country, however, it will be different than the second wave, according to Soucy and Bogoch.
They said vaccinations in long-term care homes will mean there will be fewer deaths there, but a larger percentage of fatalities among the older adults in the community.
“Hopefully the devastation of long-term care facilities will be avoided because, at that point, everyone who lives and works in long-term care will have completed their COVID-19 vaccinations,” said Bogoch.
‘Nobody wants a third wave’ of COVID-19 infections, Trudeau says
Can a third wave be averted?
On Friday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau urged the public to refrain from unnecessary travel and gatherings as the long weekend approached, noting a fast-tracked shipment of millions of COVID-19 vaccines in coming months will not be enough to combat the variants that have overtaken other countries.
“Nobody wants a third wave to start, particularly not one comprised of new, more communicable variants that can cause real challenges,” Trudeau said during a news conference from outside Rideau Cottage in Ottawa.
Also on Friday, Dr. Theresa Tam, Canada’s chief public health officer, said aggressive vaccinations will play a key part in addressing COVID-19 spread but that is just one suppression tool. She added that ongoing vigilance was vital.
“Look at the European countries — they give us a clue as to what might happen if variants are circulating, and we let our guard down. That massive acceleration into that third resurgence, if you like … will happen really fast.”
COVID Variants: Will they cause Canada’s third wave?
In a bid to curb the spread of new variants, Ontario has introduced an “emergency brake” system to allow for immediate action if a public health unit region experiences rapid acceleration in COVID-19 transmission or if its health care system risks becoming overwhelmed.
Soucy said the reopening of less essential facilities like restaurants for indoor dining and gyms should be delayed until the spring and summertime “when we get to control transmission.”
Bogoch echoed that thought, saying it will be important not to reopen too quickly, have policies in place to act swiftly and “stay ahead of the virus.”
“Variants of concern or no variants of concern — we still know how to prevent infection,” he said.
“If we navigate the next few months until vaccination is more widespread, we can certainly avoid a third wave.”
— With files from the Global News’ Heather Yourex-West, the Canadian Press.
© 2021 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.
Alberta reports 411 new cases of COVID-19 and two more deaths in last 24 hours – CBC.ca
On the one-year anniversary of the first COVID-19 case reported in Alberta, 411 new cases were reported around the province on Friday.
This brings the total of active cases up to 4,639, after 10,559 COVID-19 tests were completed in the last 24 hours. Two new deaths in Alberta linked to COVID-19 were also reported on Friday.
Across the province, there are currently 243 in hospital with the disease, and 44 in intensive care.
On Friday, the province also reported 22 new cases of the COVID-19 variant that was first detected in the United Kingdom. The total number of active variant cases in the province is now 563.
The regional breakdown of active cases on Friday was:
- Calgary Zone – 1,654
- Edmonton Zone – 1,101
- North Zone – 1,005
- Central Zone – 527
- South Zone – 341
- Unknown – 11
Since the first case hit Alberta one year ago, 135,196 Albertans have tested positive for the virus, and nearly 2,000 have died.
Alberta’s vaccine rollout will soon expand the province announced on Thursday, with people under age 75 eligible to book appointments beginning March 15. The province expects all adults in Alberta will receive their first dose of the vaccine by the end of June, if vaccine shipments arrive as scheduled.
Alberta Health will also soon start using the AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccine. They plan to offer the first 58,500 doses to healthy adults between the ages of 50 and 64. Bookings for this vaccine will begin next week on March 10.
On Friday, Health Canada announced it had approved the use of Johnson & Johnson’s COVID-19 vaccine in Canada, providing a fourth vaccine to provinces and territories.
Ontario Ready to Rollout Phase Two of COVID-19 Vaccine Distribution Plan – Government of Ontario News
Alta. reports 411 COVID-19 infections a year after its first case – CTV Edmonton
On March 5, 2020, Alberta reported its first case of COVID-19. On the same day a year later, the province added 411 infections of the disease it now knows so well.
Alberta has counted 135,196 since that first case in the Calgary zone. Of those, 128,644 have recovered, 4,639 are active, and 1,913 have died.
There are currently 243 Albertans in hospital, including 44 in ICU.
VYING FOR VACCINES
The difference between then and now is what could put an end to the pandemic: vaccines.
On Thursday, the province announced its next phase of vaccinations as well as details for the AstraZeneca rollout, and on Friday morning, Health Canada approved the Johnson & Johnson shot.
With Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna, Oxford-AstraZeneca, and soon, Johnson & Johnson, Alberta is aiming to give a first dose to all adults by the end of June.
University of Alberta Hospital Dr. Lorne Tyrell, like Health Minister Tyler Shandro and Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Deena Hinshaw on Thursday, said any vaccine would be effective against COVID-19.
“I think any one of these vaccines is going to help to give us protection and to help improve immunity for the individual, but also improve herd immunity for the community,” he said.
“I see absolutely no reason why someone would turn down a vaccine that has been this well-developed and this well-scrutinized.”
It’s still unclear how many Johnson & Johnson doses Alberta will get, but Shandro confirmed they will be added to Phase 2A once logistics set.
Alberta Health Services had administered 275,719 doses as of Thursday, and fully immunized 90,486 people.
Alberta reports 411 new cases of COVID-19 and two more deaths in last 24 hours – CBC.ca
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