A steady increase in COVID-19-related admissions to hospitals and intensive care units continues to weigh on Canada’s healthcare system, even as the overall case count begins to decline, the country’s director of public health said on Saturday.
Dr. Theresa Tam described a more than 20 percent increase in hospitalizations and ICU patients in one week, as well as a much more modest decline in the overall infection count over the same period.
But Tam noted that vaccination numbers are also rising, adding that the increasingly common provincial strategy to inoculate the most vulnerable populations is a reason for hope.
“Although the activity of COVID-19 remains high, with a high proportion of cases involving more contagious variants of concern, we are cautiously optimistic that our strengthened efforts and restrictions are beginning to have an impact,” she said.
According to Tam’s figures, an average of 4,167 patients with COVID-19 were being treated in Canadian hospitals every day during the week of April 16 to 22, marking a 22 percent increase over the previous week. That includes an average of 1,268 people who need intensive care each day, which is 21 percent more than the week before, she said.
In the same period, the average number of new daily cases fell by 2.6 percent.
Federal Conservative Party leader Erin O’Toole joined the ranks of those partially vaccinated on Saturday after receiving his first dose of the Oxford-AstraZeneca injection. He and his wife Rebecca O’Toole received the vaccine from a masked and protected healthcare professional while they were sitting in their car.
“I encourage all Canadians to get the vaccine when they become eligible. Being vaccinated helps to protect everyone, puts our economy back on track and brings us back together, ”said O’Toole in a statement.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was vaccinated on Friday, also with the AstraZeneca vaccine.
But more bad news about the injection came from Ontario, which reported a second case of a rare blood clot linked to the AstraZeneca product. Local health officials said the patient, a 60-year-old man from the Hamilton region, received treatment and remains in the hospital.
Canada has registered five cases of rare blood clots linked to the vaccine, but has administered more than 1.1 million injections of AstraZeneca so far as part of the national immunization effort.
Ontario’s Prime Minister, meanwhile, has revived his repeated calls for Ottawa to stop all non-essential travel across Canadian borders. On Friday night, health officials in Doug Ford province reported 36 confirmed cases of variant B.1.617 first detected in India.
Ford issued a statement on Saturday saying it is “extremely concerned” about the latter variant.
“At the moment, our ICU capacity is extended to its limit by the UK variant that crossed our borders at the end of last year,” he said.
Federal Transport Minister Omar Alghabra responded with a statement on Twitter, pointing to his department’s decision on Thursday to suspend all commercial and private passenger flights from India and Pakistan for 30 days.
“As the COVID-19 pandemic intensifies around the world, Canada has implemented some of the strongest measures on our international borders,” he said. “The best way to prevent the spread of COVID-19 is to follow local public health advice.”
Ontario government data showed that 833 of the 2,277 patients currently in provincial hospitals were in intensive care. The province reported 4,094 new infections on Saturday and 24 virus-related deaths.
Ford appealed to the Atlantic provinces to help strengthen hospital capacity by sending qualified health workers.
But Saturday brought worrying news to Nova Scotia, the region’s most populous province. Health officials reported 52 new cases of COVID-19, marking the first time in a year that the number of daily cases has exceeded 50.
Nova Scotia public health officials said 44 of the most recently identified cases are in the central province, which includes Halifax. Prime Minister Iain Rankin announced a one-month “breaker” blocking period for the capital and neighboring communities on Thursday.
After his province’s new case numbers were released on Saturday, he logged on to Twitter to ask people to stay at home.
“Halifax: straight up. This is serious, ”he tweeted. “Stick to your small circle of contacts. Cases are on the rise; there is propagation of the community. “
There are now 201 active reported cases of COVID-19 in Nova Scotia, with five patients hospitalized because of the disease.
In the other Atlantic provinces, New Brunswick records eight new cases of COVID-19 and the province’s 35th death from the disease. Newfoundland and Labrador reported three new infections.
To the west, health officials in Quebec recorded 1,106 new cases and 13 additional deaths. Provincial health officials said the number of hospitalizations decreased from 22 to 662, while the number of people in intensive care increased from nine to 181.
In Nunavut, public health officer Dr. Michael Patterson announced that there are now two cases of COVID-19 in Rankin Inlet, a town of about 3,000 on the west coast of Hudson Bay. Patterson said the cases are related to an outbreak in Iqaluit, the territory’s capital, and that the two people involved arrived in the community by plane on Friday.
Nunavut now has 41 active COVID-19 infections reported.
Health officials in Manitoba registered 276 new COVID-19 infections, while Saskatchewan added 286 to the overall count.
Alberta reported 1,592 new infections and five virus-related deaths, adding that the worrying variants now account for nearly 61 percent of the province’s number of active cases.