Canada in for ‘intense’ weeks of Omicron infections, hospitalization surges: data – National |


Canada is set for several “intense” weeks of COVID-19 activity as Omicron will continue to drive record infections and hospitalizations, new federal data suggests.

The projections, made by Canadian health officials on Friday, indicate the Omicron wave could peak at 170,000 cases a day this month, though officials say the projections are likely estimates of the “true number of daily cases” that may be occurring as testing restrictions have limited the number of reported cases.

Meanwhile, officials project that hospitalizations could peak at 2,000 a day later this month if Omicron is found to have a hospitalization rate 40 per cent that of the Delta variant. If Omicron has the same hospitalization rate as Delta, daily hospitalizations could peak at 5,000 a day.

“While Canada could see a sharp peak and decline in cases in the coming weeks, given disease activity far exceeding previous peaks, even the downside of this curve will be considerable,” said Dr. Theresa Tam, Canada’s chief public health officer.

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“With several weeks of very intense activity expected to come, we need to do our best now to limit the size and impact of the Omicron surge in order to maintain health system and critical functions of society.”

As of Jan. 10, 6,926 hospital beds in the country were occupied by COVID-19 patients – up from 4,113 on Jan. 3, the government reports.

Across Canada, new infections and related hospitalizations remain at or near record levels.

In the meantime, some governments are easing pandemic restrictions while others are tightening them depending on their perceptions of whether the COVID-19 curve is flattening or has yet to peak.

On Monday, Quebec is lifting its controversial 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. curfew because researchers there believe the latest wave of the pandemic is peaking.

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Also, Nunavut said its tough measures implemented just before Christmas have been so effective that it’s cancelling travel restrictions on Monday, allowing businesses to reopen and schools will resume in-person learning on Jan. 24.

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Severe illness not rising as fast as ‘enormous’ number of Omicron infections, Tam says

However, in New Brunswick new restrictions are now in effect, limiting residents to a single-household bubble. Gyms, entertainment venues and indoor dining at restaurants have been closed.

In nearby Prince Edward Island, chief medical health officer Dr. Heather Morrison says the “worst of this wave” is yet to come. Current restrictions that include business capacity limits and remote learning for school students will be extended.

While Canada moves through the Omicron wave, vaccination against the disease continues.

As of Jan. 1, 87 per cent of Canadians 12 years of age and older are fully vaccinated against COVID-19. Out of the total population, that represents 77 per cent, data shows.

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At its last modelling update in December 2021, government officials projected a COVID-19 resurgence in Canada driven by the Omicron variant.

It said at the time if infections continue to rise as they were and if Omicron took hold, the variant could outpace Delta and drive infections up to 26,600 a day by mid-January.

Omicron’s impact on Canadian society has been vast, as several governments have had to reimpose restrictions and limit testing capacity to deal with the onslaught of cases and hospitalizations.

— with files from The Canadian Press

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