Posted on 14/01/2022

#Coverage #Canada

Canada is getting overwhelmed by Omicron cases

As Omicron spreads all over the world, Canada is getting quite overwhelmed by the new variant. For many countries, Omicron is a real challenge as it spreads very quickly, but in Canada it has completely overwhelmed the testing capacity, which means there is no way to know for sure the number of people infected.

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For that reason, regions have reinstalled curfews, closed bars and restaurants, as well as gone back to online schooling. But the real issue is that there will be no way to know if these measures are working, as officials have stopped testing the population.

"Omicron is moving so quickly that it has become pretty much impossible to pin down the full extent of spread in real time," said Dr. David Naylor.

He added: "PCR testing capacity is overwhelmed. Rapid antigen tests [RAT] are inconsistently available. Those with positive RAT results often have no way to register them let alone confirm them."

Because of the lack of availability testing, the new metrics are now pretty much resting on the number of hospitalizations and intensive care unit (ICU) admissions, which are showing the real impact on the health-care, and how serious the disease is.

"It was always what was going to happen. We were always going to switch from cases to hospitalizations as a measure of how well we were doing", commented  said Dr. Allison McGeer. 

But if vaccinated people are less at risk, since serious health consequences are 54% lower for Omicron than Delta, the fact that it is so contagious has led to a big increase in hospitalizations. Vaccines are strongly reducing severe illnesses on the variant, but they seem to be much less effective on preventing catching it at all.

According to estimations, there could be hundreds of thousands of people catching it per day in the coming weeks, which is huge. 

"It's going to be a mess. We have, once again, waited too long. It's really looking like the sheer numbers are going to stress, honestly, not just the hospitals but the ICU ... and in the next two or three weeks from now, the hospital system is going to be really, really stressed again", commented Dr. Allison McGeer. 

For that reason, the United States have now classified Canada as ?level four: very high? and recommended to avoid travelling there. Hospitals are also struggling due to healthcare workers being infected by the virus.

?We are not only seeing an increase in the number of patients in our hospitals, but we are also seeing that we are losing even more staff every day,? said Christian Dubé, the Quebec health minister.

Canada now has 422,017 active cases, and a record number of hospitalizations, which jumped to 5,259.