OTTAWA – New federal modeling suggests an estimated peak of 170,000 new cases of COVID-19 per day, even with the range of public health restrictions in place across the country.
The peak could come this month and then recede in February, but the overall timing of the peak is likely to vary across the country, Chief Public Health Officer Dr Theresa Tam said during a Friday briefing.
These figures are not based on the number of known cases, but on what is believed to be the true spread of the Omicron virus in Canada, given that testing capacity is now limited nationwide, Tam said. .
Without existing measures, Tam said, that peak could be nearly 300,000 per day.
“These scenarios underscore that while combined public health measures and booster doses could help reduce the size of the Omicron wave, in both scenarios the true number of daily cases, driven by extremely high transmissibility of the variant Omicron, could still vastly exceed anything we have experienced to date during this pandemic,” she said.
The Omicron variant has now replaced Delta as the dominant strain in Canada, and although the risk of hospitalization is lower, serious illness is still possible, Tam pointed out.
Hospitalization rates are rising across all age groups, modeling shows, and over the past month severe outcomes have been highest among adults aged 60 or older and particularly those aged 80. or more.
Two features of the Omicron variant have an impact, Tam said.
“Omicron’s rapid rate of spread is likely due to a combination of inherent characteristics of the virus and an increased ability to evade previous immunity from past infections and vaccinations,” she said.
“Similarly, the lower severity profile of Omicron – as shown by international and Canadian data – is likely due to the protective characteristics of the virus against serious illness resulting from previous vaccination and/or infection. .”
That means, she said, getting vaccinated — especially a booster — and following public health guidelines remains crucial.
“While Canada may experience a peak and decline in cases in the coming weeks, given that disease activity far exceeds previous peaks, even the decline in this curve will be substantial,” he said. she stated.
“With several weeks of very intense activity expected, we must do our best now to limit the size of the Omicron surge in order to maintain health care and critical societal functions.”
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