Canada’s COVID-19 cases continue increasing

The COVID-19 pandemic continues to create stress and anxiety among Canadians as the country reported 4,521 new cases as of Tuesday afternoon, according to CTV.

The report brought the total number of COVID-19 cases to 1,018,894, including 23,135 deaths.

The ongoing increase in severe and critical illnesses has been placing a heavy strain on the health system in many places in the country.

Over the past week, on average there have been almost 6,100 new cases and 31 deaths reported daily, according to the Public Health Agency of Canada on Tuesday.

“We are still in a crisis and so our focus remains right now on getting Canadians and Canada through this global health crisis,” Health Minister Patty Hajdu said on Tuesday.

Ontario, the most populous province with a population of 14 million, is widening its vaccination plan in hard-hit areas and Ontario Premier Doug Ford hinted at further restrictions as the province faces a growing strain on hospitals and intensive care units from COVID-19 cases.

On Tuesday, Ontario reported 3,065 new cases of COVID-19 and eight additional deaths. Hospitalizations stood at 1,161, with 510 people listed as being in ICU “due to COVID-related illness.”

Ford announced on Tuesday that his government will take further public health restrictions in addition to the province-wide “emergency brake” as cases continue to climb and hospital strain mounts.

Ford said that despite the massive impact of last week’s emergency brake announcement, which closed all indoor and outdoor dining, more may be necessary. “We’re going to have further restrictions moving forward very, very quickly.”

Quebec, another populous province that has expanded its lockdown to include several additional municipalities, on Tuesday reported 1,168 new cases of COVID-19 and four additional deaths. Hospitalizations stood at 514, with 121 people in ICUs in the province.

COVID-19 variants of concern are contributing to the current resurgence.

“Of the over 15,000 variant of concern cases reported to date across Canada, the B.1.1.7 variant continues to account for over 90 percent and has likely replaced the original virus in some locations,” said Theresa Tam, the country’s chief public health officer, in a statement on Tuesday.

A significant increase in the number of cases of the P.1 variant is also a cause for concern. Cases due to this variant rose from about 460 cases a week ago to now 857 cases reported in Canada.

“Early evidence suggests the P.1 variant may reduce the effectiveness of vaccines, making it even more important to control its spread,” Tam said.

“With variants of concern posing new challenges in different locations across the country, now is not the time to travel across regions for recreational reasons,” she said.

Canada has reported 14,010 B.1.1.7 variants, 857 P.1 variants, and 337 B.1.351 variants up to date, Tam said, adding that new variant case numbers represent the tip of the iceberg as there are thousands more cases that have screened positive for problematic mutations.