New cases of COVID-19 dropping in Canada as experts say lockdowns are working
A health-care worker prepares a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at a UHN COVID-19 vaccine clinic in Toronto on Thursday, January 7, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
TORONTO -- New cases of COVID-19 have steadily dropped over the last 12 days, a downward trend that experts say offers reason for hope even as the second wave pushes hospitals dangerously close to capacity.
Tracking by CTVNews.ca shows the country’s seven-day average has consistently fallen since Jan. 10, from 8,260 cases to 5,957 cases by Jan. 22.
Twelve days may seem brief, but infectious disease specialist Dr. Isaac Bogoch said the trajectory is a clear trend in the right direction.
“It looks like we have at least started to turn the corner, but we have a long road ahead,” Bogoch told CTVNews.ca on Friday.
The downward trend is particularly good news because respiratory viruses typically flourish during the winter, said infectious disease specialist Dr. Zain Chagla.
“Clearly it’s not just a few days’ numbers. There is a significant decrease, which is great,” Chagla said.
It may be tempting to point to vaccines as a potential reason for the drop, particularly as countries such as Israel have seen cases plummet amid their own aggressive vaccination plan. But both doctors rejected the idea that vaccines are responsible, since only two per cent of Canada’s population has received vaccines. In Israel, more than a quarter of the country has been vaccinated.
“(Canada’s vaccines) have been rolled out primarily to long-term care and health-care workers. That enough is not enough to drive down the case counts,” Chagla said.
Instead, both Chagla and Bogoch point to stricter public health measures in Quebec and Ontario, where lockdowns have shuttered non-essential businesses and social gatherings have been banned for weeks.
“So really it does come to the lockdowns,” Chagla said.
The downward trend comes at a time when some experts had predicted the country would still be experiencing the worst of a post-holiday surge in cases. While that’s not happening right now, Bogoch pointed out that Canada still experienced a sharp rise in cases following the holidays, with Canada’s seven-day average hitting its peak on Jan. 8 with 8,310 cases.
“It was pretty bad. I honestly think if we didn’t have those measures to blunt it, it would’ve been significantly worse,” he said.
Even as new cases fall, Canadian hospitals continue to struggle to keep up with hospitalizations, according to David Fisman, a professor of epidemiology at the University of Toronto.
“Unfortunately critical illness lags, so we still have ICU admissions at high levels that reflect the holiday surge,” he said.
Canada’s case count may hold promising news, including the possibility of providing more breathing room for hospitals, but Bogoch said it’s far too soon to pat ourselves on the back.
“I still think we’ve got to be careful here. While the trend is going down, we can’t let out guard down,” Bogoch said.
“We cannot plateau. We have to continue that downward trend.”