The COVID-19 pandemic is not over, experts warn, and they say that Canadians should still take precautions heading into the fall months to protect themselves and the health-care system against the virus and other seasonal illnesses.
Raywat Deonandan, an epidemiologist and associate professor with the Faculty of Health Sciences at the University of Ottawa, warns that the COVID-19 pandemic is not yet over.
“(The pandemic) is raging around as wildly as it has ever been,” Deonandan told Global News.
For the week of Aug. 7 to Aug. 13, Canada had 24,161 cases of COVID-19, with Ontario having the highest number of 10,655 cases, according to Health Canada.
Although most areas in Canada appear to be at or past the peak of the current wave of COVID-19, the regional increase in COVID-19 case counts and hospitalizations continues, Canada’s top doctor Theresa Tam said in a tweet on Friday.
“As well, with SARSCoV2 continuing to circulate worldwide, Canada must prepare for renewed COVID-19 activity, including with potential new variants in the months ahead,” wrote Tam. “In particular, as part of readying ourselves for the fall, with more people returning to in-person work and children going back to school, getting vaccinations up-to-date is a top priority.”
Deonandan says the key concern for now and the upcoming season is the ability of Canada’s health-care system to absorb patients’ needs.
Across Canada, hospitals and health-care services are seeing high patient volumes due to staffing shortages. This has resulted in longer wait times in emergency rooms, a lack of ambulances and even closure of some units.
By reducing the risk of COVID-19 infection, individuals can help health-care workers alleviate stress on the system as they struggle to keep up with demand, said Deonandan.
COVID measures don’t have to be perfect
Horacio Bach, a clinical assistant professor in the division of infectious diseases at the Faculty of Medicine at the University of British Columbia, says he thinks many now have the impression that COVID-19 is over because provincial governments have lifted some or most restrictions.
“But we have to remember we’re dealing with this virus that can spike at any time,” said Bach. “We don’t know when this is coming, so just take the same precautions that we have when COVID-19 just started and follow the guidelines that we have from the start.”
Bach said Canada could expect an increase in cases during fall and winter due to COVID-19 variants.
“These variants will infect the person again, even if you’re vaccinated,” said Bach. “Even if you got COVID-19 recently or a while ago, you will still be infected because the antibodies that we generated against the virus are the antibodies against the original strain that came into the end of 2019 beginning of 2020 and there is currently no vaccine against the new Omicron virus.
“So the moment these new variants appeared, they can escape the immune system and it’s something natural as part of the evolution of the virus,” said Bach. “This is why the vaccines that we get are not so effective to stop the infection.”
Bach suggested people should even double mask to reduce the risk of infection.
Deonandan says there is a common misunderstanding that COVID protocols have to be perfect.