Canada is on track to match—or even outpace—the United States’ current rate of COVID-19 infections.
Once boastful about its relatively swift and effective pandemic response, Canada is now one of few countries fighting three deadlier and highly contagious strains of the virus at once.
On April 8, Canada reported 185.2 cases per million population, while the U.S. posted 199.56 per million population, based on rolling seven-day averages, according to Our World in Data.
Worse yet, compared to the U.S., Canada has detected more than double the number of cases caused by the P1 variant, linked to a traveller from Brazil. P1 is more contagious, deadlier, and potentially limits vaccine effectiveness. As of Friday morning, Canada listed 1,039 P1 cases, while the U.S. had 433.
“We’ve been somewhat blind to our overall performance internationally because we’re sitting right next door to the United States and the disaster that clearly was their experience during this pandemic,” Anthony Dale, the president and CEO of the Ontario Hospital Association, told the National Post.
The U.S. has some of the worst pandemic outcomes in the world, including more than half a million deaths, the most of any country.
“They have clearly experienced much worse outcomes overall than Canada, make no mistake,” Dale said. ”However, it’s the future I’m worried about, and we’re trending in a worrisome direction in comparison to them when it comes to community spread.”
The situation is so bad that the U.S. Centers for Disease Control has issued the most severe travel warning urging Americans to avoid all travel to Canada. (The U.S.-Canada border has been shut to non-essential travel since March 2020.)
COVID-19 cases are surging in both countries, with many people looking to vaccines as the answer. But the reality is that vaccines need time. It’s expected that 50 percent to 80 percent of people need to be fully vaccinated for countries to achieve herd immunity. The U.S. has administered at least one dose to about one-third of its population and fully vaccinated 20 percent, while Canada has given one dose to a little more than 17 percent and fully vaccinated 2 percent, according to Our World in Data. In real numbers, Canada has administered a little more than 7 million vaccine doses so far, while the U.S. has administered nearly 175 million.
Once heralded for being the largest portfolio in the world—Prime Minister Justin Trudeau secured enough doses to fully vaccinate the entire Canadian population five times over—the country is now suffering from a slow, confusing, and uneven start. Rollout has in part been hamstrung because Canada can’t produce its own vaccines.
U.S. President Joe Biden has promised that 90 percent of Americans will be eligible to get a vaccine this month, while Trudeau has repeatedly set September as the month by which all willing Canadian adults will be vaccinated.
To Canada’s credit, the rollout is accelerating. It took the country 52 days to administer the first million doses, but now, it’s averaging about a million per week, according to University of Calgary economist Trevor Tombe, who has been tracking vaccination campaigns.
In the meantime, politicians across Canada have implemented lockdown measures—yet again—to limit COVID-19 spread, but doctors have said many restrictions don’t go far enough.
“We would need restrictions the strength of New Zealand, Australia—basically full financially supported lockdown,” Dr. Gosia Gasperowicz told the Globe and Mail speaking about Alberta. The province reported a 27 percent increase in COVID-19 cases in a single week and it’s presumed that the B117 U.K. variant has almost entirely replaced the original COVID-19 strain. So far, Alberta Premier Jason Kenney has prohibited in-person dining and exercise classes, but shopping for non-essential items and outdoor patios are allowed.
Since the onset of the pandemic, Canada has reported 1,036,023 cases and 23,211 deaths.
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