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Severe illness not rising at the same 'explosive rate' as COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations: Tam

With Omicron now the predominant COVID-19 variant rapidly spreading across the country, the average daily case count has increased 65 per cent from last week and hospitalizations are up 91 per cent but severe illnesses are not rising at the same "explosive rate," according to Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Theresa Tam.

On average, close to 42,000 cases have been reported daily over the last seven days, as of Jan. 5. And while initial evidence has suggested that the risk of hospitalization is lower for Omicron compared to Delta, hospitalization rates are rising because of the “sudden acceleration of Omicron and enormous volume of cases."

“Presently in Canada over the past week, an average of close to 3,650 people with COVID-19 were being treated in our hospitals each day, with almost 600 in intensive care units, representing weekly increases of 91 per cent and 25 per cent, respectively,” Tam told reporters Friday during a federal briefing. “During the same period, there were on average 39 deaths reported each day.”

“Case counts are already about 400 per cent higher than the peak of the third wave,” Tam said.

The surge in new cases has led to limited access to COVID-19 testing for populations that are not deemed high-risk. These Canadians are being told that if they have COVID-19 symptoms, they should presume they are infected and self-isolate.

Tam said Friday that while testing capacity has been stretched, resulting in underestimated case numbers, public health agencies are using other indicators like laboratory test-positivity rates to monitor the overall disease activity across the country. With a test positivity rate of approximately 29 per cent, Tam said there is currently “significant” community transmission of COVID-19.

“We can all help by reducing our contacts to get us through this difficult time that much faster,” Tam said. “This might feel like a double marathon that we didn't sign up for, but despite feeling tired, we should have a sense of achievement for the ground we've covered so far.”


Facing this record-setting rise in cases, Infrastructure and Communities Minister Dominic LeBlanc said that the federal government anticipates increasing requests from provinces and territories in the coming weeks and will do everything they can to respond, but ultimately health care is provincial jurisdiction.

“We as a government have to efficiently use the federal resources we can bring to bear to fill the gaps that provinces and territories are identifying,” LeBlanc said, noting that the new variant is “having a major impact on the day-to-day lives of Canadians.”

LeBlanc said that the federal government will be speaking with all of Canada's premiers early next week to talk next steps and co-ordinate the expected onslaught of requests for support.

“It shouldn't surprise anybody that it's not a limitless number of federal health-care resources that we can bring to bear,” he said. Top Stories

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