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Canada's top doctor says variants threatening progress made against COVID-19

Last Updated Mar 19, 2021 at 8:54 am PDT

FILE - Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Theresa Tam holds a press conference on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, Friday, Sept. 4, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Summary

Dr. Theresa Tam is warning both people and provinces against complacency amid a rise in COVID variant cases

Canada's top doctor says now is a critical time in the fight against the coronavirus and more transmissible variants

Tam said in some parts of the country, variants represent a 'high proportion of cases'

OTTAWA – Canada’s top doctor is warning the country not to ease up on public health measures just yet, calling this a critical moment as we see COVID-19 and variant cases rise.

By Friday, there were around 4,500 variant cases across Canada, an increase of nearly 1,000 since Monday, with the B.1.1.7 variant accounting for over 90 per cent of these cases.

“There is concern that the increase in more transmissible variants is threatening our progress before vaccines can bring full benefits,” Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Theresa Tam said.

She stressed the importance of continuing to follow public health measures to limit the spread of the coronavirus, saying these variants of concern pose a risk if they are not limited.

“This is absolutely not the time to let go of those measures,” Tam said.

Tam said in some parts of the country, variants represent a “high proportion of cases and the number of outbreaks involving these variants are increasing.”

“Things will get easier if we keep COVID activity at manageable levels as vaccines continue to roll out over the coming weeks. At this point, team variants have the ability to take off fast. This is a crucial moment. If we don’t slow down the spread of the variants, team vaccine is at risk of falling behind,” Tam added.

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Canada’s top doctor warns against easing measures too soon as variants spread. The number of regular cases is also trending up, especially in younger Canadians.

“It is a really tricky situation because of the spread occurring in the younger age groups, while they are the ones waiting farther down the line to get vaccinated,” Tam said, warning people against large gatherings, with Easter just weeks away.

Tam also took some time Friday to reassure Canadians that the AstraZeneca vaccine is safe for use here and that the shot is not associated with an increased risk of blood clots, as was determined by the European regulator.

She says it is possible the shot may be linked to a very rare blood clot, however, Health Canada is monitoring the situation.

Trudeau works to secure doses from U.S.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Friday the government was finalizing an agreement with the U.S. that would see 1.5 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine be shipped to us on loan.

“Vaccines are the path out of this pandemic,” he said.

Millions of doses of the company’s drug remain in storage in the U.S. since the country has yet to approve the vaccine for use there.

“I want to thank President Biden for his collaboration. Canada and the U.S. are each other’s closest friends and most important allies and I know we’ll continue working to keep Canadians and Americans safe, beat this virus, and rebuild strong, thriving economies together,” Trudeau said.

The prime minister also stressed the safety of all vaccines approved by Health Canada. He told Canadians the best vaccine is the first one offered to them.