Canada's new health minister, Mark Holland, says the federal government is monitoring the COVID-19 situation “very closely” as the latest data from Health Canada suggests infections could be rising, while warning a surge is expected as the decline approaches a new variant called EG.5 emerges.
“Of course, with EG.5 and the various subvariants of Omicron, we are assessing case numbers and development on a daily basis,” Holland told reporters at a drug affordability announcement in Prince Edward Island.
“That is entirely to be expected. We knew we would see an increase in case numbers early in the fall,” Holland said.
This week, PHAC reported seeing something “Persistent fluctuations in some viral activity indicators after a long period of gradual decline,” which the agency said could be an early signal of a rise in cases.
However, overall COVID-19 activity across the country is still low to moderate, with minimal testing reported and an associated positivity percentage rate of 8.6.
PHAC said that EG.5 is among the only variant group “showing steady growth in Canada” and “has been steadily increasing in national samples since early July.”
Holland said the federal government “stands ready to take the necessary action if this situation evolves.”
In an interview on the CTV News Channel, Canada's Deputy Chief Public Health Officer, Dr. Howard Njoo said he was not concerned about the latest data as it currently does not appear that EG.5 has any more serious health effects.
Still, the federal health agency remains in close contact with provincial and territorial-level partners as it monitors sewage and other indicators such as hospital admissions as fall approaches and people congregate more indoors.
“And as in previous years, we can expect to see a potential spike in cases due to colder weather and a return to school and work after the summer holidays. But we're keeping a close eye on the situation.”
Njoo suggested that the best defense for Canadians is to keep track of their COVID-19 vaccinations when Canadians are concerned about a potential spike in cases in the coming weeks, noting that the immunity lasts six months start to decrease after an infection or the last dose.
“All the good measures everyone knows about, you know, using face masks is appropriate indoors indoors, you know when it's crowded, good hand hygiene and breathing etiquette, updating vaccinations is everything.” Layers of protection, about the we should think further.”
Asked whether Canadians should wait to get the most up-to-date booster shot available in the fall, the health secretary said his advice was that people should keep their shots.
“There will always be new variants and we will always have new vaccines. So I think if you're eligible and able to have a vaccine, you should take it,” Holland said. “If new vaccines are available and it's time, then that's the thing, but I don't think people should hesitate to get vaccinated at any time.”