A worker waits to assist people outside at a mass COVID-19 vaccination site during the COVID-19 pandemic in Mississauga, Ont., on Monday, March 22, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette

A worker waits to assist people outside at a mass COVID-19 vaccination site during the COVID-19 pandemic in Mississauga, Ont., on Monday, March 22, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette

Cases of COVID-19 variants on the rise in Canada, fuelling concerns over third wave

The majority of those cases involve the B.1.1.7 variant first identified in the United Kingdom

The number of cases of variants of concern in the country is rising, Canada’s chief public health officer said Monday as provinces ramped up their vaccination programs in the hopes of heading off a possible third wave of COVID-19.

Dr. Theresa Tam said there have been 5,154 confirmed COVID-19 cases involving more transmissible variants, with the highest numbers in Alberta, Ontario, British Columbia and Quebec.

The majority of those cases involve the B.1.1.7 variant first identified in the United Kingdom, which Tam says is responsible for 638 of the 655 cases of variants confirmed since March 18.

“With the continued increase of variants of concern, maintaining public health measures and individual precautions is crucial to reducing infection rates and avoiding a rapid re-acceleration of the epidemic and its severe outcomes, including hospitalization and deaths,” Tam said in a statement.

In addition to conventional testing, she said the Public Health Agency of Canada was developing more tools to study and detect the variants, including an advanced form of genetic sequencing to detect the virus in wastewater.

Tam said the number of COVID-19 cases across the country has been rising, after a decline earlier this year. The bright spot, she said, is vaccination, which gives “cause for optimism (that) widespread and lasting immunity can be achieved.”

Speaking in Trois-Rivieres, Que., Prime Minister Justin Trudeau praised the vaccination effort, which he said has delivered more than 4.7 million doses to the provinces thus far.

“This is the way we all wanted to start the spring, with families from coast to coast to coast breathing a sigh of relief,” he said at an event alongside Quebec Premier Francois Legault.

However, in an acknowledgment that the pandemic is not over, Trudeau extended the deadline for new applications under the Canada Emergency Business Account, which provides interest-free loans to small businesses.

He said the deadline had been moved from the end of March to the end of June, promising to do “whatever it takes for as long as it takes” to help Canadians through the pandemic.

Even as vaccination programs ramp up, the growing number of variant cases is sparking fears of a third wave in some parts of the country. Ontario’s chief medical officer of health announced last week that the province was already in a third wave, and on Monday health officials in Quebec expressed concern that the province would soon follow suit.

Health Minister Christian Dube said all the province’s negative indicators are rising, and he urged people to respect health measures to prevent a variant-fuelled COVID-19 surge.

Legault, meanwhile, said the province’s case numbers and hospitalizations were no longer decreasing, and he expressed the desire to avoid steep increases seen in other jurisdictions. “We look at what’s happening in Ontario, in New York, in New Jersey and France and we have to worry,” he said. “We have to be careful.”

In Saskatchewan, rising concern over variant cases in Regina prompted some school divisions to restart online learning. The province also announced it was shipping 100,000 rapid antigen tests to schools to help prevent COVID-19 transmission.

Health officials said that as of Sunday, 141 of the 156 confirmed cases of a variant of concern were in the capital city.

Ontario, meanwhile, said the province plans to expand a pharmacy vaccination project to more virus hot spots. Premier Doug Ford told reporters that the province plans to double to 700 the number of pharmacies offering the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine to those 60 and up.

Ford said the expansion would initially target the Toronto, Peel and York regions, but would expand further as soon as more vaccine becomes available.

“Yes, we have bush fires happening all around the province, and yes, we need to address those, but we have an inferno happening in other regions, being Toronto, Peel and York to a certain degree, and we’re going to make sure we focus on those regions,” he said.

Several provinces were also expanding their vaccine eligibility on Monday in anticipation of larger shipments in the coming days.

Ontario and Manitoba lowered the age of eligibility for the general public to register for shots to 75 and 65, respectively. In Manitoba, Indigenous people 45 and up can also get vaccinated.

Quebec dropped the minimum age for shots to 60 for those in the Montreal area, as some 350 pharmacies in the hard-hit metropolis began offering vaccines. The age of eligibility in the rest of the province remained 65 as of Monday afternoon.

READ MORE: How a year of COVID-19 has impacted our mental health

Morgan Lowrie, The Canadian Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism during the pandemic? Make a donation here.

Coronavirus

Just Posted

North Okanagan business Hytec Kohler set up a COVID-19 vaccination clinic at the Spallumcheen plant Friday, May 14. (Jennifer Smith - Morning Star)
More than half of eligible adults in Interior Health vaccinated

Over 365,000 vaccine doses have been administered throughout the Interior Health region

Student-nurse Kendra Waterstreet administers the Pfizer vaccine to Litia Fleming at the Waneta Plaza vaccination clinic in the old Zellers buiding. Photo: Jim Bailey
Trail vaccination clinic readies for adults age 40+

B.C.’s state of emergency is extended through the end of day on May 25

Kerry Reed
West Kootenay Fishing Report: Spring fishing, the bite is on!!

Anglers having great results on Kootenay Lake and Columbia River

New Border Bruins owner Dr. Mark Szynkaruk reps team colours with his young sons and wife Tracey. Photo courtesy of the Grand Forks Border Bruins
KIJHL’s Border Bruins sold to Grand Forks doctor

The league announced the sale Friday, May 14

For something a little different this week, Trail Blazers is featuring an historical image from the Kootenay Boundary. This rough and tumble photo shows the Forshaw Ranch near Phoenix, B.C, circa 1914. Photo Credit: Boundary Heritage Facebook Page (via Grand Forks Gazette)
Trail Blazers: Home, home on the range

Trail Blazers is a weekly historical feature

Daily confirmed COVID-19 cases reported to B.C. public health, seven-day rolling average in white, to May 12, 2021. (B.C. Centre for Disease Control)
B.C. preparing ‘Restart 2.0’ from COVID-19 as June approaches

Daily infections fall below 500 Friday, down to 387 in hospital

The first Black judge named to the BC Supreme Court, Selwyn Romilly, was handcuffed at 9:15 a.m. May 14 while walking along the seawall. (YouTube/Screen grab)
Police apologize after wrongly arresting B.C.’s first Black Supreme Court Justice

At 81 years old, the retired judge was handcuffed in public while out for a walk Friday morning

Dr. Steve Beerman, of Nanaimo, shows off his Dr. David Bishop Gold Medal, awarded for distinguished medical service. (Karl Yu/News Bulletin)
Queen presents Vancouver Island doctor with award for global drowning prevention

Dr. Steve Beerman receives Royal Life Saving Society’s King Edward VII Cup at virtual ceremony

Tim Miller is selling his 76-foot steel bridge from his property in Burton, B.C. The bridge originates from the railway in Revelstoke. (Contributed)
For sale: a 100-ton 19th century bridge by Arrow Lakes

Bridge is in Burton, B.C. and advertised for $40,000

Former UFV Cascades wrestling coach Arjan Singh Bhullar is now the ONE heavyweight champion after defeating Brandon Vera via TKO in round two on Saturday in Singapore. (ONE Championship)
Former UFV wrestling coach wins MMA championship

Arjan Singh Bhullar captures ONE heavyweight title, first Indian origin fighter to achieve honour

Astra Zeneca vaccine waits for injection in a Feb. 3, 2021 file photo. A Langley man has become the second B.C. resident to suffer a blood clot following an injection. (AP Photo/Frank Augstein)
B.C. man required emergency surgery after AstraZeneca vaccination

Shaun Mulldoon suffered ‘massive blood clot’ after jab

Chilliwack’s Kile Brown, performing as drag queen Hailey Adler, dances and lip syncs in front of hundreds of people during the inaugural Chilliwack Pride Barbecue at the Neighbourhood Learning Centre on Aug. 24, 2019. Monday, May 17 is International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress file)
Unofficial holidays: Here’s what people are celebrating for the week of May 16 to 22

International Day Against Homophobia, Talk Like Yoda Day, Sea Monkey Day all coming up this week

Bradley Priestap in an undated photo provided to the media some time in 2012 by the London Police Service.
Serial sex-offender acquitted of duct tape possession in B.C. provincial court

Ontario sex offender on long-term supervision order was found with one of many ‘rape kit’ items

Most Read