The Omicron variant continued to cause a record number of COVID-19 cases in several provinces, but a new study in Ontario has suggested that people infected with the variant are significantly less likely to be hospitalized or die than those with Delta .
In the study, Public Health Ontario compared cases of Omicron with symptoms that appeared between November 22 and December 17 with cases of Delta and found that after adjusting for vaccine status and region, the risk of hospitalization or death was 54% lower with Omicron. .
The agency said Omicron appears to be the first dominant variant to show a decrease in severity, but warned that due to its higher transmissibility, “the absolute number of hospitalizations and the impact on the healthcare system will likely be significant, despite a possible reduction in severity. “
Provinces across the country have seen the number of cases surge in the wake of Omicron, prompting some to change or expand health restrictions.
Ontario and Quebec both recorded new highs for new infections on Thursday. Ontario has reported 13,807 new cases of COVID-19 and Quebec has reported 14,188.
The Quebec government research institute said its modeling predicts “significant growth in new hospitalizations and the consequent occupancy of regular and intensive care beds over the next three weeks.”
He said his models show there could be between 1,600 and 2,100 COVID-19 patients outside of intensive care units (ICUs) over the next three weeks. The institute said that could include between 300 and 375 intensive care patients during that time. The most dire scenarios – 2,100 regular COVID-19 patients and 375 intensive care patients – would exceed anything recorded in previous waves of the pandemic.
Quebec on Wednesday said vaccinated healthcare workers who tested positive for COVID-19 could be allowed to return to work after seven days if they show no symptoms and workers exposed to COVID-19 by people other than limbs of their household no longer automatically need to insulate.
Manitoba and Ontario have said they are considering similar measures to avoid overwhelming their own health systems.
British Columbia said it would bring students back in January on a phased approach, with staff and students whose parents are health workers, as well as those who need extra support, returning to class on January 3 or 4. All other students will return to school on January 10.
Manitoba, Alberta and British Columbia set new case records on Wednesday. Alberta more than doubled its number of active cases in one week, while recording its largest single-day increase in new infections.
-From The Canadian Press and CBC News, last updated 1:40 p.m. ET
What’s happening across Canada
For more details on the situation in your province and territory – including recent hospitalizations and intensive care capacity, as well as challenges with testing capacity – click on the local coverage below.
In Atlantic Canada, Prince Edward Island Prime Minister Dennis King on Thursday described measures to help those affected by COVID-19. The prime minister noted that cases were on the rise on the island, but noted that so far most cases have been mild.
The update came as the province, which has yet to record any COVID-19-related deaths, reported 169 more cases.
In Newfoundland and Labrador, there were 349 new cases reported Thursday, another record. New Scotland has reported 522 new cases and is extending booster eligibility to anyone 30 years of age and older, effective Monday, if they are six months away from their second dose.
Nova Scotia Premier Tim Houston on Thursday afternoon appealed to retired health officials across the province to volunteer to help at vaccination clinics.
“We need your skills. And the more people we can recruit, the faster we can do it,” he said.
New Brunswick had not yet provided updated information for the day.
In central Canada, Ontario Thursday reported 13,807 new cases of COVID-19, a new record, with eight more deaths. The update precedes a scheduled afternoon briefing by Dr. Kieran Moore, Chief Medical Officer of Health for the province.
Quebec Thursday, with 14,188 new cases of COVID-19 and nine more deaths. Prime Minister François Legault is due to hold a briefing later Thursday, with some reports indicating he should tighten the restrictions.
All over the North, Nunavut reported 20 new cases on Thursday.
In the Northwest Territories, officials announced a postponement of the return to school until Jan. 10, citing an increase in cases during the holidays. They also ask that students who received a rapid self-test kit before the holidays take the test the day before the start of the school year.
Health officials said 68 new cases of COVID-19 had been reported since Christmas Eve, while yukonese health authorities reported 27 new cases of COVID-19 during the same period.
In the Prairie provinces, Manitoba reported a new record Thursday with 1,123 new cases and three additional deaths, while in Saskatchewan, health authorities have reported 589 new cases of COVID-19 and four additional deaths.
Alberta more than doubled its number of active COVID-19 cases in a week, while recording its largest single-day increase in new infections. A record 2,775 new cases were reported on Wednesday.
In British Columbia, health officials on Wednesday reported five more deaths and 2,944 new cases of COVID-19 – a new record for the province.
-From CBC News and The Canadian Press, last updated 1:45 p.m. ET
What is happening in the world
As of Thursday afternoon, around 285 million cases of COVID-19 had been reported worldwide, according to the Johns Hopkins University Coronavirus Database, which tracks cases around the world. The death toll worldwide stood at more than 5.4 million.
In the Americas, Bolivian major cities have canceled all public activities for New Year’s Eve after the country hit a record 4,939 new COVID-19 cases, the highest number for a day in the entire pandemic in the country of ‘South America.
The Omicron-fueled wave that is skyrocketing COVID-19 cases in the United States is putting children in hospital in record numbers, and experts lament most are not getting vaccinated.
“It’s so heartbreaking,” said Dr. Paul Offit, an infectious disease expert at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. “It was tough enough last year, but now you know you have a way to stop it all.”
During the week of December 21-27, an average of 334 children aged 17 and under were admitted per day to hospitals with coronavirus, a 58% increase from the previous week, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention of the United States. (CDC)
In the Asia Pacific region, India is moving forward with parliamentary elections in its most populous state despite daily COVID-19 infections which more than doubled nationwide in a week. India reported 13,154 new cases of COVID-19 on Thursday, up from 6,000 daily cases on December 24.
The Chinese city of Xi’an reported another 155 local cases on Thursday, bringing the total number to the highest of any Chinese city this year, as infections continue to spread eight days after lockdown began.
In Africa, health officials in South Africa have reported 9,020 new cases of COVID-19 and 81 additional deaths.
In Europe, residents and tourists in Paris will have to wear masks outside from Friday as France experiences a wave of COVID-19 infections fueled by the Omicron variant. Masks are already compulsory in shops, public establishments and office buildings and in public transport in France
The Paris Police Prefecture said the mask rule would apply to people 12 and older, although people are exempt when riding a bicycle or motorbike, traveling by vehicle and exercising . Those who do not comply face a fine.
France reported 206,243 new cases of COVID-19 on Thursday.
In the Middle East, the United Arab Emirates reported 2,234 new cases of COVID-19 on Wednesday, with no additional deaths.
-From The Associated Press, Reuters and CBC News, last updated 2:45 p.m. ET
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