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Canada Covid-19: Variants have likely replaced original viruses in many parts of the country, health officials say

“This is not the news any of us wanted, but hospital admissions are rising, ICU beds are filling up, variants are spreading, and even people who had convinced themselves they did not need to worry are getting sick, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said at a news conference on Tuesday, adding that this is a “very serious” third wave of the pandemic.

Admissions to intensive care units have increased by 18% in the last week alone, and the new variants put a “heavy burden” on the capacity of the hospital, Canada’s Public Health Agency said.

“With increasing rates of infection, we are seeing a greater number of younger adults with Covid-1
9 being treated in the hospital,” said Dr. Theresa Tam, Canada’s Head of Public Health. She added that so far more than 15,000 variant cases have been detected, the vast majority of which the B.1.1.7 variant was first detected in the UK.
In many provinces now experiencing a third wave, the head of public health reports that younger patients are becoming seriously ill with Covid-19, and many of these cases have tested positive for variants of concern, according to Tam.

“Many of them deteriorate quite quickly and need to be admitted to the ICU quite immediately, and then they spend a lot of time staying in the ICU, which means there is also a capacity impact,” Tam said.

While hospitalizations have not increased dramatically, more of the hospitalized patients now need critical care, as variants make them more seriously ill, she said.

In Toronto, public health officials ordered all elementary and high schools to stop personal learning and switch to distance learning, effective Wednesday, as they try to “reverse the wave of infection the province is currently facing,” Toronto Public Health said.

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Ontario, whose capital is Toronto, is discussing new and more restrictive measures, including a home order, as ICU capacity is increasingly strained.

The order will be in place from 7.-18. April according to the instructions issued on Tuesday and can be extended.

“The current circumstances call for difficult decisions to be made locally to protect all of them in our school community, including students, teachers and staff,” said Toronto Public Health.

British Columbia has moved to close the Whistler ski resort and further restrict collections in the province, which now also handles an outbreak of the virus among NHL hockey players with the Vancouver Canucks.

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The province of Alberta also confirmed that there were new clusters of cases involving the P.1 variant.

This week, Canada surpassed 1 million cases of Covid-19 since the pandemic began. Tam called the milestone a “strong reminder” of everything Canadians have been through.

While the B.1.1.7 variant has now probably become the dominant variant in Canada, Tam said that her team is also keeping an eye on a significant outbreak of the P.1 variant, which was first discovered in Brazil and now increasing in some western Canadian provinces.

On Monday, the British Columbia Minister of Health said the number of cases of the P.1 variant in his province almost doubled over the Easter holiday weekend.

“The most deceptive variants of Covid-19 will eventually take over,” Adrian Dix said in a Monday update.

CNN’s Elizabeth Stuart and Theresa Waldrop contributed to this report.

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