TORONTO, Nov. 11 (Reuters) – Canada’s coronavirus epicenters are shifting from densely populated urban areas to more rural or remote areas with lower vaccination rates and fewer public health resources.
Some of those areas were spared in previous waves of the pandemic and are now forced to contend with a widespread virulent strain of the coronavirus with fewer options at their disposal to cope with the wave.
Canada has high overall vaccination rates, but hesitations are allowing the virus to spread.
In Ontario, Canada’s most populous province, the Sudbury health region, about 400 km north of Toronto, has tightened restrictions. Officials have reduced capacity limits in public areas, requiring residents to wear masks and provide proof of vaccination. The recent number of COVID-19 cases, at 164.7 per 100,000 as of Monday, is by far the highest in the province.
It has also seen positivity rates, the percentage of people who have tested for COVID-19 and who test positive rose to 4.43% as of Oct. 24. The provincial average that week was 1.56%.
“Less populous, less urban areas were relatively spared during this pandemic, but…I think we’re starting to see the non-urban wave of COVID begin,” said Zain Chagla, an infectious disease physician at St. Joseph’s Healthcare in Hamilton. , Ontario.
Greater Sudbury has more than 160,000 people, but less hospital capacity than the Toronto area.
“What is especially concerning is the number of cases and the rapid rise in the number of cases coupled with the fact that we are seeing cases everywhere,” including about a quarter with no identified source, said Penny Sutcliffe, medical officer for Public Health Sudbury. and districts.
On Wednesday, Ontario halted plans to increase capacity limits on sites such as sex clubs “out of an abundance of caution”.
Sutcliffe said the increased transmission in her region could be related to both an easing of restrictions and widespread COVID-19 fatigue: “We are all tired of the pandemic and tired of having to take precautions.”
It is a fatigue that is felt elsewhere.
Yukon declared a state of emergency this week after announcing 80 COVID-19 cases in three days, bringing the total number of active cases to 169 in its territory of 43,000 people. About 22.1% of Yukon’s population is indigenous, compared to the national average of about 5%.
Saskatchewan, the far northwest of the province, which is home to multiple First Nations communities, had the highest COVID-19 infection rates this week. It also had the lowest vaccination rate as a percentage of the total population, government data showed.
Alberta, the relatively rural northern region of the province, which includes the oil sands hub of Fort McMurray, had the highest number of hospitalizations and the highest number of cases in early November.
Last summer, the Delta variant ran through crowded homes in oil sands and a young population that did not see itself at risk from COVID-19, said GP Raman Kumar at Fort McMurray.
“There’s more of a sense of rugged individualism where people aren’t necessarily that heavily reliant on government.”
Now, he said, he and his colleagues are tackling the “three Cs” of vaccine restraint: suppressing complacency and conspiracy and maximizing convenience.
“When someone comes in for a prescription refill, it’s always a good opportunity to say to someone, ‘Hey, did you get your vaccine?'”
Reporting by Anna Mehler Paperny; Editing by Aurora Ellis
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