COVID cases are increasing globally. Is a ‘summer wave’ coming to Canada? – National |

COVID-19 cases are on the rise around the world, prompting the World Health Organization (WHO) to express concern about reductions in testing and lack of equal access to vaccines and antiviral drugs. in some low-income countries.

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The number of positive cases of COVID-19 globally has increased by 30 percent in the past two weeks, according to the WHO.

This is the latest in an upward trend in new cases that began four weeks ago, following a decline in cases since the last peak in March 2022, the WHO says.

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A “dramatic” decline in testing in countries around the world is compounding the challenge of the ongoing pandemic, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said during a news conference on Wednesday.

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“This obscures the real picture of an evolving virus and the real burden of COVID-19 disease globally,” he said.

“It also means that treatments are not given early enough to prevent serious illness or death.”

In the US and Europe, the rapidly spreading Omicron BA.4 and BA.5 subvariants are driving the current surge in cases.

These subvariants have so far been able to effectively evade immunity, both from vaccination and prior infection, which is fueling new outbreaks around the world.

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In Canada, federal public health officials have also raised concerns about an increase in the prevalence and spread of BA.4 and BA.5. The two subvariants are now collectively responsible for nearly 30 per cent of new cases in Canada, according to federal COVID-19 epidemiological data.

Canada’s public health director, Dr. Theresa Tam, has repeatedly warned of the need to be vigilant, specifically noting last week that the country must “prepare for a resurgence in the coming weeks and months.”

“Given that BA.4 and BA.5 are even more transmissible and immune invasive than BA.1 and BA.2, it is reasonable to expect that we will see an increase in cases in the coming weeks,” Tam said during a briefing. June 30th.

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Spike in Omicron cases this summer likely means more hospitalizations

Spike in Omicron cases this summer likely means more hospitalizations

In recent weeks, several provinces have seen an increase in COVID-19 activity, including Ontario, Quebec, British Columbia, New Brunswick, and Prince Edward Island. This is leading some experts to predict that a “summer wave” is imminent.

Marianne Levitsky, an associate professor at the University of Toronto, said she believes sewage data in Ontario is the most reliable indicator of infection in that province, given that testing has been reduced in Ontario.

And the most recent data indicates that a summer wave could very well be in play, he said.

“The sewage signal indicates that the numbers are going up and that’s certainly what Public Health Ontario, the science board, etc. are saying, so unfortunately it looks like that’s the situation we find ourselves in.”

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The data also indicates that these increases began when public mask mandates were lifted, highlighting the importance of masks and other public health measures in mitigating the spread of the virus, said Levitsky, who is also an occupational hygienist and risk expert. and workplace controls.

“It seems to be a perfect storm situation… the various mandates and control requirements were running out just as this most infectious variant was hitting us,” he said.

That’s why she believes mask mandates need to be reinstated, given the spread of new variants, particularly BA.5 in Canada, stressing that masks remain “strongly recommended” by public health officials.

“We know that this particular variant appears to be extremely infectious and is evading immunity from previous vaccines and infection… at the moment, it appears that the risk is increasing. So we need to reintroduce some of the controls that we’ve been using in the past.”

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Dr. Mike Ryan, a WHO official, said Wednesday that he believes there is a “much more intense wave of disease going through” countries around the world, but that this is not being captured due to a “collapse in data.” “.

However, deaths from COVID-19 are not increasing significantly, which could mean the new variants are not as strong and the vaccines are working, he said.

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That is why it is even more important to ensure that low- and middle-income countries have more equitable access to vaccines and antiviral drugs, such as Paxlovid, which can significantly reduce serious outcomes and deaths.

Click to play video: 'Ontario braces for summer's wave of COVID-19'

Ontario braces for summer wave of COVID-19

Ontario braces for summer wave of COVID-19

The WHO is calling for more investment by countries in surveillance and information sharing and better allocation of resources. Because until everyone is better protected, the virus will not stop circulating, Ryan said.

“The WHO is not here to tell the world that it is time to close our lockdown,” he said.

“But what we are telling countries is to make sure that the most vulnerable are vaccinated, that their immunity is strong, that they maintain vigilance, that they have their antivirals in the system so that the vulnerable people who do receive the infected. they can be treated early and ensure, as I said, that we are taking care of each other.”

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