OTTAWA — Canada is nearing another grim milestone in the COVID-19 pandemic, even as the country’s top doctor says there are hopeful signs with case counts and hospitalizations gradually trending downwards.
Confirmed cases approached 800,000 nationwide Saturday as Quebec prepared to log its 10,000th death linked to the illness. A further 27 deaths have pushed the death toll in the province to 9,999.
At the same time, a statement from Dr. Theresa Tam, Canada’s chief public health officer, said national surveillance data show “hopeful signs of declining COVID-19 activity,” suggesting ongoing public health restrictions across the country are taking effect.
“It is crucial that strong measures are kept in place in order to maintain a steady downward trend,” she added.
“The risk remains that trends could reverse quickly, particularly in areas of the country that are reporting increased, unchanged or only modest declines in COVID-19 disease activity.”
Outbreaks are still happening in high-risk settings and among vulnerable populations, said Tam, including hospitals, long-term care homes, correctional facilities, and in remote communities.
Tam repeated her warning that new variants of the virus that causes COVID-19 could rapidly accelerate transmission in Canada.
In Ontario, Premier Doug Ford is expected to reveal details this coming week about plans to reopen the economy following the province-wide shutdown that’s been in place since Dec. 26. A provincial state of emergency declared on Jan. 12 is set to expire Tuesday.
Swaths of Quebec — not including Nunavik — have been subject to that province’s strictest public health rules since early January, with updates to alert levels in some regions set to take effect Monday.
Alberta announced Saturday it would allow limited school and team sports for children and teens to resume on Monday, after saying late last month children’s sport and performance activities could resume Feb. 8 as long as they related to school programming.
Meanwhile, B.C. officials have extended restrictions on social gatherings ahead of upcoming events including the Super Bowl, Valentine’s Day, Family Day and the Lunar New Year.
The latest federal data show Canada has confirmed 797,756 cases of COVID-19 since the start of the pandemic, including 20,609 deaths.