Canadian public health officials say the B.1.1.7 variant has likely replaced the original Covid-19 virus in many parts of the country, adding that the new variants are making younger people sick and sending more to the hospital.
“This is not the news any of us wanted, but hospitalizations are on the rise, ICU beds are filling up, variants are spreading, and even people who had convinced themselves not to worry are getting sick, “said Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. he said during a press conference on Tuesday.
This is a “very serious” third wave of the pandemic, he added.
Trudeau made a direct appeal to young people urging them to “stay home,” saying that younger Canadians are getting sicker in this third wave.
Canada’s Public Health Agency said intensive care admissions jumped 18% in the last week alone, saying the new variants are putting “great pressure” on hospital capacity.
“With increasing infection rates, we are seeing increased numbers of young adults with COVID-19 receiving treatment in the hospital,” said Dr. Theresa Tam, Director of Public Health Canada.
“Many of them deteriorate quite quickly and have to be admitted to the ICU immediately, and then they spend quite a bit of time in the ICU, which means there is an impact on capacity as well,” he added.
Tam explained that while hospitalizations have not increased dramatically, more of the admitted patients now need intensive care, as the variants make them more seriously ill. He added that more than 15,000 variant cases had been detected so far, the vast majority of them variant B.1.1.7, first detected in the UK.
While variant B.1.1.7 has now likely become the dominant variant in Canada, Tam said his team is also keeping a close eye on a significant outbreak of P.1. variant, first detected in Brazil and now increasing in some western Canadian provinces.
On Monday, the British Columbia Minister of Health said the number of cases of P.1. variant in his province almost doubled during the Easter weekend.
“The most transmissible variants of COVID-19 will finally take over,” the minister said during a Covid briefing on Monday.
British Columbia has moved to close the Whistler ski resort and further restrict meetings in the province which is now also facing an outbreak of the virus among NHL hockey players with the Vancouver Canucks.
The province of Alberta also confirmed that it was dealing with new clusters of P.1-related cases. variant.
Ontario, meanwhile, is debating new and more restrictive measures, including a stay-at-home order, as its ICU capacity is increasingly limited.