The Canadian Medical Association (CMA) is putting out an urgent call for “unprecedented measures” and a united national approach to tackle rising COVID-19 cases, as a third wave of the pandemic has gripped most of the country.
In a statement Friday, the national body of physicians and medical experts said that Canada was at a “critical juncture” in the coronavirus pandemic and a collaboration between the provinces was needed.
It made a series of recommendations, including sharing of health-care resources across provincial and territorial borders and a re-prioritization of the vaccine rollout.
The CMA said resources should be diverted to hard-hit areas to ease pressure on the health-care system and save the most lives.
“What we’re calling for today is a federal approach to help provinces, a stronger extension of help to provinces in terms of collaborating and coordinating, to bring together health-care resources, health-care staff and equipment into those areas that are in a dire situation right now,” Dr. Ann Collins, CMA president, told Global News.
“We’re running out of time and we’re running out of resources,” she said, adding that parts of the country were in a “crisis situation.”
In terms of vaccine distribution, the CMA urged the federal government to ditch the per-capita approach and focus instead on areas of urgent need.
“We need a change to the vaccine rollout,” said Collins.
“It needs to be accelerated and it needs to be targeted to those areas where people are getting the sickest, the fastest and in the greatest number.”
The National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) recommends vaccine priority lists but it is the provinces and territories which mandate or set their own rules regarding the distribution.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said the per-capita allocation formula was agreed upon with the provinces to make sure the northern territories get rapidly vaccinated because of their level of vulnerability.
“But, of course, we are happy to work with the provinces on adjusting as the provinces see as necessary,” Trudeau said during a news conference Friday.
With essential workers continuing to get exposed to and infected with COVID-19, an enhanced form of paid sick leave is urgently required, CMA said.
“Any measures taken now will take time to have an impact given the lag from exposure to disease – we must act now,” the CMA statement said.
Ontario, where a stay-at-home order and provincewide shutdown is in effect, was set to announce tightened restrictions later Friday.
The Ontario cabinet was reportedly considering a curfew, travel restrictions and ordering a shutdown of certain construction-related activities, multiple sources told Global News on Thursday.
“While we appreciate the prime minister’s offer, unless it is matched with an increase in supply, we do not need the Red Cross at this time for administration of vaccines in Ontario,” a statement from the premier’s office said on Friday.
“We do not have a capacity issue, we have a supply issue.”
Nationally, Canada set a record on Thursday for new COVID-19 cases with daily infections surging past 9,500 for the first time since the pandemic began more than a year ago.
More transmissible variants of concern are now making up a significant portion of new cases in several provinces and have also made their way into the northern territories.
On Thursday, Dr. Howard Njoo, federal deputy chief public health officer, called on Canadians to “double down” on adhering to public health measures.
He also suggested that a swifter ramp-up in vaccinations alone would likely not have thwarted the third wave taking hold across Canada.
“Vaccines are one tool in our toolbox and a very important tool,” he told reporters. “But it’s not the vaccines alone that are going to solve it all.”
— With files from Global News’ Bryan Mullen and The Canadian Press
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