The number of new COVID-19 cases being reported daily has dropped 70 per cent since the mid-April peak of the third wave, Canada's chief public health officer said today.
Speaking at a COVID-19 briefing with reporters, Dr. Theresa Tam said Canada is now reporting an average of 2,700 new cases each day — down from last month's daily rate of nearly 9,000 new infections.
In the country's largest province, Ontario, 699 cases were reported on Tuesday, the lowest case count since October 2020. Quebec reported just 208 new infections today.
But some provinces — notably Manitoba — are still in the grip of the third wave, with hospital capacity stretched to the limit.
Tam said the "considerable decline in infection rates" is linked to vaccine uptake rates "increasing in leaps and bounds" in combination with strict public health measures in most provinces. As of May 31, some 58 per cent of all eligible Canadians have received at least one dose of a vaccine.
The vaccine supply has ramped up dramatically as Pfizer delivers a steady stream of doses. The company is expected to deliver more than two million doses each week until the end of July.
Canada's second largest supplier, Moderna, has been less consistent in meeting its delivery targets but the company has promised millions more of its mRNA shots by month's end.
While the number of new infections has fallen to levels not seen since the first week of March, the number of people with severe cases of COVID-19 has not declined at the same pace.
The average number of patients with COVID-19 being treated in hospital each day has dropped by 40 per cent since the April peak, Tam said.
An average of 2,600 people are now in hospital with COVID-19, Tam said; 1,100 of those people in ICUs, a 25 per cent decline from the April peak. The average daily number of deaths is also down by about a quarter, with 39 deaths being reported each day nationwide.
Dr. Howard Njoo, the deputy chief public health officer, said hospitalization and death rates are "late indicators" and typically decline at a slower rate when case counts begin to dip. A person may have mild symptoms for a week and then worsen rapidly.
Njoo said the "epidemiology has evolved" and COVID-19 cases driven by variants of concerns may also lead to more severe outcomes requiring longer hospital stays.
The National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) issued new guidance today on mixing and matching second doses of COVID-19 vaccines. It's advising Canadians to combine the AstraZeneca-Oxford, Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna shots interchangeably in certain situations.
The recommendation comes weeks after NACI said the viral vector shots from AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson are not the "preferred" products given their associated risk of a rare but serious condition called vaccine-induced immune thrombotic thrombocytopenia (VITT) — blood clots combined with low platelets.
With NACI's green-light for mixed dosing, Tam said AstraZeneca recipients will now have other options to complete the two-dose vaccine schedule.
"I think it is good news that people now have the choice," she said.