TORONTO — With cases of COVID-19 on the rise across Canada after a summer drop, doctors say the country has entered a fourth wave of the pandemic.
Canada’s seven-day average for new COVID-19 cases is nearing 1,300, up 60 per cent from last week. The bulk of new infections are in British Columbia, which reported more than 1,000 new infections between Sunday and Tuesday, followed by Alberta, Saskatchewan, Ontario and Quebec.
Dr. Fahad Razak, an internal medicine physician at St. Michael’s Hospital in Toronto, said Canada is now in a fourth wave.
“From mid-July to mid-August, there’s been a four-fold increase [in cases],”he told CTV News Channel on Wednesday, adding that he is grateful cases are nowhere near figures seen during the third wave.
Razak warned “a wave can happen very, very quickly” with the more infectious Delta variant of the virus.
“You can have really explosive growth,” he said, adding that that’s what’s playing out in United States, the United Kingdom and the Netherlands right now.
Dr. Peter Juni, the scientific director of the Ontario COVID-19 Science Advisory Table, also warned Canada is in a fourth wave.
“We can’t see any reopening considering right now,” he told CP24, referring to Ontario reopening. “We need to be very careful that we don’t have further explosive growth.”
But Juni said the vaccine rollout is what differentiates this wave compared to previous ones in Canada.
Right now, unvaccinated people make up the bulk of new cases. Statistics Canada data show that unvaccinated people have made up 90 per cent of all COVID-19 cases, since the vaccine rollout began in December.
Juni urged those still on the fence to get their shot, as they’re the most likely to be hospitalized with serious illness.
GETTING VACCINATED PROTECTS THOSE INELIGIBLE FOR SHOT
To help get cases under control, the Ontario government released new guidelines which include vaccinated people being allowed to end self-isolating after a negative COVID-19 test and having their symptoms subside.
Razak said the rules make sense given the lower likelihood of vaccinated people catching COVID-19 and needing to be hospitalized. “It’s just another great example of how vaccines will protect us and allow us to get back to a normal life.”
The move in Ontario is being seen as a way to incentivize people to get the shot. But other provinces are trying other methods.
Quebec is rolling out vaccine passports which will be needed to access public events, bars, restaurants and gyms.
Infectious disease specialist Dr. Sumon Chakrabarti at Trillium Health Partners in Mississauga, Ont. agrees that Canada is in the midst of a fourth wave, but in his opinion, people shouldn’t feel forced to take vaccines.
“I would rather have people do things by choice,” he told CTV News Channel on Wednesday. “I don’t like forcing things except in certain examples, such as if you work with high-risk populations like in a nursing home.”
Razak joined the chorus of front-line health professionals and public health workers urging people to get their shot in order to protect those aren’t eligible for the vaccine, such as young children.
“The most we can do as adults, as those who care for children and are responsible for them, is get everyone as vaccinated as possible,” he said.
“This is the wall that we have to create.”