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COVID-19 cases across Canada could be ‘very high’ by January, top doctor warns

Canada’s top doctor says urgent action is needed to curb the spread of Omicron, which is now the dominant strain of COVID-19 in several provinces.
Chief Public Health Officer Theresa Tam looks on during a technical briefing on the COVID-19 pandemic in Canada, in Ottawa, Friday, Jan. 15, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld

Canada’s top doctor says urgent action is needed to curb the spread of Omicron, which is now the dominant strain of COVID-19 in several provinces.

Chief public health officer Dr. Theresa Tam said Wednesday there were more than 11,300 new infections nationwide the previous day, up from the average of 5,000 cases per day last week.

She said modelling shows case counts could be “very high” by early January.

On Wednesday evening, Quebec Premier Francois Legault announced new restrictions, saying the province had seen 9,000 new COVID-19 cases that day. Those numbers are expected to be recorded today.

As of Boxing Day, he said, private gatherings in the province will be limited to six people or two-family bubbles.

Restaurants, which are already operating at half capacity and have to close at 10 p.m., will also have to limit groups at tables to six people or two families.

Several provinces have recently reinstated stricter public health measures in response to Omicron, including caps on social gatherings and closing some businesses.

Meanwhile, a self-isolating Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is pushing back at critics who say his government has fumbled the Omicron wave of COVID-19.

Despite the fact that South Africa raised the alarm about the highly transmissible variant nearly one month ago, local public health agencies have found themselves unable to provide tests for the high number of suspected COVID-19 cases in their areas.

In some places people have been told to simply assume they’ve been infected and self-isolate if they develop cold-like symptoms or test positive on a rapid test, essentially sending them into unofficial lockdown.

“We have all been working flat out and learning much about COVID over the past two years and indeed bracing for Omicron,” Trudeau said at a briefing Wednesday.

The government bought some time by instituting border restrictions and testing requirements to try to slow the introduction of Omicron to Canada, and has used that time to stock up on necessary supplies like vaccines and rapid tests, Trudeau said.

“Even before Omicron’s arrival, we were there on stepping up to order enough boosters into 2022 for all Canadians, which is why people can be comfortable going to get that booster shot that does provide protection against Omicron as quickly as possible so that we can stay safe.”

—The Canadian Press

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