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As COVID-19 variants spread, top doctor urges Canadians to stay vigilant

Last Updated Feb 18, 2021 at 7:42 am PST

Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Theresa Tam is reflected in a television during a news conference in Ottawa, Friday, Aug. 14, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld

Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Theresa Tam says now is not the time to let our guard down

Modelling to show virus variants more easily spread across Canada, says top doctor

Dr. Tam urges Canadians to maintain personal protective protocols, to not increase contacts

TORONTO (NEWS 1130) – As COVID-19 virus variants continue to crop up across Canada, the country’s top doctor says it’s no time to ease up on efforts to contain the spread.

Speaking on Breakfast Television Toronto, Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Theresa Tam is urging Canadians to stay vigilant.

The latest national COVID-19 modelling data will be released Friday morning, and Tam says it will show variants of concern are more easily spread.

“Public health measures can work but we need to keep at them,” she said Thursday morning. “If you… ease them off too quickly and you have a variant in your midst, you’re looking at another resurgence, basically, so that’s the bottom line.”

Tam says there are concerns with the virus mutating on an ongoing basis.

“We’re still learning quite a bit about these new variants, what we call variants of concern,” she explained. “We’re concerned about a few of them because these viruses appear to be more easily spread between people, so these are more transmissible viruses. Even more concerning is that some of them might impact the effectiveness of the vaccine and we are monitoring very closely, mainly through international data, on whether some of them could cause more severe illness as well.”

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She notes some data out of the U.K. suggests the B.1.1.7 variant may be causing more severe symptoms. She points to this as one of the reasons to remain vigilant about detecting the presence of such variants in Canada.

As some provinces see decreased daily case counts, experts have warned that could lead to a false sense of security, potentially leading to complacency.

Tam warns a third wave of the coronavirus is “a distinct possibility.”

“And that’s why I’ve been messaging pretty widely in terms of keeping interactions to a minimum,” she explained. “So I’ve been saying people should, as much as possible, have the fewest interactions, with the fewest people, for the shortest time, at the greatest distance.”

She admits there are situations where this isn’t possible. That’s when it’s key to “layer on all the personal protective measures,” Tam says.

On the topic of masks, Tam stresses these face coverings are but one layer of protection.

“You have to do all the other things, including the distancing and avoiding those close, crowded areas inside where you’re going to be close to people. If you can’t avoid those then do all the additional layers, including masking,” she said.

Federal recommendations continue to be the use of a three-layer mask with two layers on either side of a filter in the middle.

“But the most important thing is a well-constructed, well-fitted mask. The fit is really important. So it doesn’t matter how many layers you put on — if the fit isn’t good … then you lose the performance of that masks,” Tam added.