After months of fresh anxiety caused by a fourth wave of COVID-19 driven by the Delta variant, new modelling from the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) shows that if vaccine uptake and public-health measures continue, case counts could fall in the coming weeks.
It’s the first decline in nearly three months, and it’s thanks mainly to high vaccination rates, Chief Public Health officer Dr. Theresa Tam told reporters on Friday.
“Eighty per cent of the eligible population has at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine,” Tam said, while people with COVID are more likely to be unvaccinated.
“Over the past week, an average of over 3,700 new cases were reported daily across Canada, compared to the over 8,500 daily cases forecasted by mid-September,” said Tam, crediting the decrease to public-health restrictions applied in late August and early September.
Tam went on to caution that COVID is “unlikely to disappear entirely, and there could continue to be bumps along the way,” particularly as we enter the winter months.
Because many Canadians plan to travel south, Tam was asked if Health Canada is working with the U.S. so that Canadians who received two types of vaccine can do so.
Health Canada approved the mixing of AstraZeneca’s vaccine with Moderna’s or Pfizer’s, before the National Advisory Committee on Immunization recommended a pause in March because of rare instances of blood clots.
While several European countries recognize the efficacy of mixed doses, the U.S. doesn’t, and Tam said Canada’s discussions with American health officials have been difficult.
Early next month, the U.S. will announce its vaccination requirements for anyone entering the country.
“We are waiting anxiously to see what they will be doing at their end,” Tam said. “But let’s just say we have left no stone unturned to advocate for the (mixed doses of) vaccines (we have) here.”
On Wednesday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced that, starting Oct. 30, vaccination will be mandatory for everyone travelling by air, rail, or boat within the country and overseas.
While the travel industry supports mandatory vaccination, it feels Oct. 30 is too soon, especially to establish a standard proof of inoculation.
“It is imperative that the federal government quickly develop a standardized and digital proof of vaccination for air travel,” said Mike McNaney, president and CEO of the National Airlines Council of Canada, on Wednesday.
“The program (must) be implemented with minimal travel disruptions,” said Danie-Robert Gooch, president of the Canadian Airports Council.
“Implementation must not place undue onus on airports, industry partners, or our fully vaccinated travellers,” Gooch wrote in an email. “The measures should also be standardized across the country, as security-screening measures are, to minimize traveller confusion.”