Canada is experiencing an uptick in cases of COVID-19 in various regions across the country, with officials worried that more people will get sick as provinces reopen.
More than 400 cases of the viruses were confirmed in Canada on Thursday, with spikes tallied in Quebec, Alberta, and Saskatchewan, bringing the country’s total to 109,264. Canada has reported 8,827 deaths.
While the number of cases remain minuscule compared to the neighbouring United States, the uptick in cases is partially linked to regions that have started re-opening their economies, particular bars and restaurants.
When COVID-19 first started breaking out across Canada, local, provincial, and federal politicians encouraged people to stay at home and effectively shut down most of the country, save for essential business like pharmacies and grocery stores.
Some provinces started easing harsh pandemic restrictions—forced closures of businesses, limitations on group size during social events—as early as May, with most regions now allowing dine-in restaurants, gyms, and malls to open. But with more social interaction, comes more COVID-19.
“As Canada lifts some public health measures and reopens parts of society, we’ll still see cases of COVID-19. That’s why testing is important,” Canada Public Health said on Twitter.
Quebec has been Canada’s COVID-19 hotspot since the pandemic began. On Thursday, the province recorded its highest jump in cases since mid-June with 142 new cases and nine deaths, prompting the province’s re premier, Francoise Legault, to warn that he might shut bars and nightclubs again.
Alberta recorded 120 new cases on Thursday—the first time the province recorded more than 100 new cases in a single day since May—bringing the total number of active cases to 807. Saskatchewan recorded 42 new cases on the same day.
The small spikes have some experts worried.
“Opening up the economy is not a linear path,” Dr. Isaac Bogoch, an infectious disease specialist at Toronto General Hospital, told Reuters. “There will be setbacks. We will very likely have to reimpose public health restrictions in certain areas because of an unacceptable number of new cases.”
Notably, the country’s most populated area, the Greater Toronto Area (GTA), remains in one of the tighter lockdowns in the country. However, Ontario is reopening throughout much of the province, and the GTA is likely not too far behind.
On Wednesday, Canada’s chief medical officer, Dr. Theresa Tam, took to Twitter to urge young Canadians, who are partly to blame for current spikes, to remain vigilant with their efforts in staving off the virus.
“Recent reports of individuals contracting COVID-19 at parties, nightclubs and bars, as well as (increased) rates of transmission among young Canadians in some jurisdictions across the country are concerning,” Tam said.
She said people need to continue maintaining at least six feet distance from each other, avoid crowded spaces with poor ventilation, wear masks, and wash hands frequently.
Several experts wrote an open letter to Canadian politicians, urging for a measured, ongoing pandemic response that doesn’t eradicate COVID-19, but rather, manages it in an equitable way so that Black, Indigenous and people of colour as well as low-income people aren’t disproportionately affected.
“Elimination of COVID-19 is not a practical objective for Canada until we have a vaccine,” the letter says. “The current approach to dealing with COVID-19 carries significant risks to overall population health and threatens to increase inequities across the country.”
The experts recommend that as governments continue to lift restrictions and Canadians go back to work, measures need to be tailored to local realities. The 18 signatories and their supporters are advocating for careful easing of restrictions alongside the enhancement of disease surveillance through increased COVID-19 testing and contact tracing, CBC News reported.
“We need to accept that COVID-19 will be with us for some time and to find ways to deal with it,” the letter says.
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