WHO warns Canada is facing a 'second wave' of coronavirus cases


A pedestrian wearing a mask walks past a Brooks Brothers storefront closed during the COVID-19 crisis on May 06, 2020 in Vancouver, Canada.

Andrew Chin | Getty Images

Canada is facing a second wave of coronavirus cases as the provinces of Quebec and Ontario report the bulk of the country’s Covid-19 death toll, the Pan American Health Organization’s top health official warned Wednesday.

“Canada is currently facing its second wave, and areas that were not previously affected are now surpassing the numbers seen during the first wave,” Carissa Etienne, director of PAHO and World Health Organization regional director for the Americas, said at a news briefing. 

“The state of the pandemic in the Americas remains complex,” she said.

New Covid-19 cases in Canada have grown by more than 6% compared with a week ago as of Tuesday, based on a seven-day average to smooth out daily jumps in reporting, according to a CNBC analysis of data compiled by Johns Hopkins University.

During its peak in April, Canada reported roughly 1,700 daily new cases based on a weekly average but was able to suppress that figure to only a few hundred by mid-July. Cases have since surged across Canada, which is now reporting over 2,200 daily new cases a day, according to Johns Hopkins data.

Nearly 80% of all of Canada’s cases have stemmed from Ontario and Quebec, its two most populated provinces. The coronavirus has killed nearly 9,000 people combined in the two provinces, constituting roughly 93% of the country’s total death toll, according to Canada’s government data.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said late last week that the recent increase in cases has placed “enormous pressure” on the nation’s hospitals and health-care workers who are “more and more overwhelmed.” He also urged residents to not gather during the nation’s Thanksgiving festivities on Monday.

“We are at a tipping point in this pandemic,” Trudeau said at a news conference Friday, adding that Canada’s second wave is “under way.”

In Ontario, officials ordered indoor gyms, movie theaters, casinos, performing arts venues and indoor dining at restaurants, along with other establishments, to close over the weekend in Ottawa, Peel and Toronto for at least 28 days.

The government warned Ontario could experience “worst-case scenarios seen in northern Italy and New York City” if trends continue, Reuters reported on Friday.

“They need to monitor very close the situation,” PAHO Assistant Director Jarbas Barbosa said during the news briefing Wednesday, noting that Ontario has already adapted their strategies in the region and have warned residents of the significant increase in cases.

However, if residents don’t comply with the warnings, the province could likely “see a scenario similar to what happened in New York and Italy,” he added.

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