Canada’s chief public health officer Dr. Theresa Tam is warning of a potential seventh Covid wave and calling on Canadians to “prepare” for a fall and winter spike.
Tam made the comments while appearing before the House of Commons Standing Committee on Health Wednesday. NDP MP Don Davies asked Tam about the Public Health Agency of Canada’s (PHAC) “assessment of the chances of a seventh wave of Covid” for the fall.
“I think the pandemic is not over,” said Tam. “It is very likely that we will get some more viral activity in the future, and we can’t predict exactly how big the next wave is.”
“I think we need to prepare, we need to prepare for the fall and winter season.”
Tam also addressed Covid-19 mutations, including new sub variants of omicron, which she says PHAC is currently monitoring.
“The omicron virus continues to undergo evolution” said Tam, noting her team is monitoring the BA.2.12.1, BA.4 and BA.5 subvariants, which she said have increased transmissibility.
Tam also said PHAC is “watching out for some very different variants.”
Tam also addressed vaccine effectiveness during her committee appearance, and stated that two vaccine doses only provide 20% protection against omicron. Meanwhile, three doses offer 60% protection against the variant.
“Omicron was a game-changer, is a game-changer,” said Tam. “Prior to that, two doses of a vaccine for example, had very high efficacy against infection as well as severe outcomes.”
Tam said that because vaccines alone cannot prevent Covid transmission, a layered approach that includes masking should be considered.
Tam’s comments about potential new Covid waves and waning vaccine efficacy come as opposition politicians continue to push on the Trudeau government to lift its vaccine mandates and other remaining pandemic restrictions.
When challenged on the metrics behind maintaining mandates by Conservative MP Stephen Ellis, who is a physician, Tam said the federal government needs to “make sure they’re protecting all populations across Canada with some of the mandates.”
“You cannot boil down a complex decision by simple metrics,” she added.
Canada is currently one of few countries that continues to require vaccination for domestic and international travel, with unvaccinated people having been banned from traveling on planes and trains since Nov. 30.
In addition to showing proof of vaccination, air and rail passengers are also required to wear a mask.
As of now, the Trudeau government has not confirmed when it intends to lift mandates.
In addition to Covid restrictions, PHAC has issued a level 2 travel notice regarding monkeypox, advising travelers to two dozen countries, including the United States, to take precautions.
Tha agency warned travelers could face potential delays due to the implementation of new procedures that include isolation.
Over 80 cases of monkeypox have so far been confirmed in Canada, a milder version of smallpox which the U.S. Centre for Disease Control (CDC) says “spreads between people primarily through direct contact with infectious sores, scabs, or body fluids.”
A vaccine protecting against the disease has begun to be offered to certain high-risk groups in Quebec.