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As parts of Canada relax COVID-19 measures, health officials warn of spring resurgence

As parts of Canada relax COVID-19 measures, health officials warn of spring resurgence

FILE PHOTO: Canada's Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Theresa Tam speaks at a news conference held to discuss the country's coronavirus disease (COVID-19) response in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada November 6, 2020. REUTERS/Patrick Doyle/File Photo

OTTAWA: Canadian health officials on Friday (Feb 19) said tough public measures should be maintained to prevent new variants of COVID-19 from triggering a third wave, just as some of the major provinces are relaxing restrictions.

Ontario, the most populous of the 10 provinces, is gradually allowing shuttered businesses to reopen and diluting limits on the size of public gatherings.

But Theresa Tam, Canada's chief public health officer, said a new longer-term forecast showed loosening measures could allow new daily cases to spike to 20,000 from around 2,900 at present.

"We are at a critical point in the pandemic ... this model predicts that with more contagious variants spreading, further lifting of the public health measures will cause the epidemic to resurge rapidly and strongly," she told a briefing.

READ: Ontario, other Canada regions start easing COVID-19 restrictions
READ: India to ship COVID-19 vaccines to Canada as diplomatic tension eases

Her comments were the latest from medical authorities across the country expressing concern that the new variants could trigger a third wave of the coronavirus.

Canada has recorded a total of 21,498 deaths from COVID-19 and 837,497 cases. The variants - which are more contagious than the most common form of the coronavirus - have been discovered in all 10 provinces.

Asked about the apparent contradiction between her warning and moves to lift some restrictions, Tam said chief medical officers in the provinces knew the measures could only be eased very slowly, with plenty of surveillance and testing.

New modeling shows the domestic death toll could be between 21,510 and 22,420 by Feb 28, with total cases ranging from 841,650 to 878,850.

Although new cases have steadily been slowing in recent weeks, "backlogs (of patients) and an exhausted healthcare workforce remain in many areas," said Tam.

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Source: Reuters


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