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Experts fear complacency with COVID-19 cases in decline, variants on the rise

Last Updated Feb 17, 2021 at 8:14 am PST

People wear face masks as they cross a street in Montreal, Sunday, Feb. 14, 2021, as the COVID-19 pandemic continues in Canada and around the world. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes

COVID-19 cases are down in Canada and around the world

As case numbers decline, experts worry that could lead to false sense of security

WHO says 'number of weekly reported cases has fallen by almost half' globally

Daily COVID-19 cases are on the decline across the globe despite a rise in more infectious variants of the virus in recent weeks.

The director general of the World Health Organization says the number of new weekly cases around the world since the beginning of the year has dropped by half.

“What matters now is how we respond to this trend,” says Tedros Adhanom. “The fire is not out but we have reduced it’s size. If we stop fighting it on any front it will come roaring back.”

“The number of weekly reported cases has fallen by almost half. This shows that simple public health measures work, even in the presence of variants,” Adhanom adds.

However, he says the concern is that the good news will bring complacency.

Variants reported in all of Canada’s provinces

Cases continue to trend down in Canada, despite a slow vaccine rollout so far. Cases have dropped by 64 per cent across the country compared to just over a month ago.

There are now COVID-19 variants present in all 10 provinces.

Canada’s chief public health officer warned on Tuesday that now was the time to “Vanquish the Variant“, noting the importance of getting a handle on the spread of variants.

“These variants have been smoldering in the background and gaining fuel that now threatens to flare up into a new, rapidly spreading blaze. There are now over 540 B.1.1.7 variants, 33 B.1.351 variants, and P.1 variant,” Dr. Theresa Tam said.

While she expressed concern over variants being recorded across Canada, Tam said what is more worrisome is the reported “community spread and outbreak activity” linked to variants in at least four of the provinces.

“The rapid rise of cases in a previously well-controlled situation in Newfoundland and Labrador is a testament to how quickly things can change when more contagious variants are introduced,” she said.

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On Tuesday, B.C. Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry confirmed there were 60 cases of COVID-19 variants confirmed in the province. That compares with the more than 300 identified in Ontario.

She noted the risk of community transmission remains high.

As case numbers begin to level overall across the country, Henry stressed the importance of staying the course.

“Particularly, we’ve seen cases start to stabilize as the outbreaks have been settling down in the Interior. We’re still having challenging times of course in the north in many communities, but on the Island as well things are starting to be managed,” Henry said.

“But, we are very concerned that in some of our higher population areas, particularly in the Fraser Health region and the Vancouver Coastal Health region, we’re starting to see an uptick,” she added, reminding British Columbians their actions now impact the weeks to come.