OTTAWA, Jan. 21 (Xinhua) -- Canadian hospitalization admissions are still rising although the average number of daily COVID-19 cases fell 28 percent compared to the previous week, according to the Public Health Agency of Canada on Friday.
"Over the past week, an average of over 10,000 people with COVID-19 were being treated in our hospitals each day, surpassing peak daily numbers for all previous waves of the pandemic," Canada's Chief Public Health Officer Theresa Tam said at a press conference in Ottawa on Friday. "This includes over 1,100 people in intensive care units, which is higher than all but the third wave peak."
With test positivity at 22 percent and the seven-day average of daily cases at almost 27,000, COVID-19 is still widespread throughout the country with many hospitals under "intense strain", Tam said.
Canada may have passed the peak of the Omicron wave but the number of hospitalized patients is now at its highest level since the pandemic outbreak, Tam said.
However, the actual COVID-19 case count, she said, may be underestimated as lab testing can't keep up with demand as Omicron spreads in the country.
"The January time frame, the peak may occur, but the hospitalizations and the ICU admissions may continue to increase for some time. So that's in February and I really hope that by the end of the next month, we'll be in a better position," she said.
"We still have some difficult weeks ahead and potential for more bumps along the way," Tam said. "Omicron can cause serious outcomes. We can not trivialize this virus. Many people, particularly those who are at higher risk, get very severely sick and indeed, many have died, and we need to do what we can to prevent those."
The sheer volume of Omicron cases has also resulted in more reports of severe cases among children, but they are still very rare in terms of rates, said Tam, adding that the vast majority of severe illnesses still occur among those over the age of 60.
Tam stressed the strong protective effects of the vaccine and encouraged the public to get their booster shots and vaccinate eligible children.
Up to date, more than 6.5 million eligible Canadians do not have their first or second dose yet and coverage for eligible children currently stands at 51 percent with at least one dose.
"We all know that it is very important to get the booster dose, particularly in the time of Omicron," she said.
Tam acknowledged that there are a number of unknowns, but the priority right now is to prevent serious outcomes, even as health officials look at a longer-term approach to tackling the virus.
Canada reported 16,981 COVID-19 new cases Friday afternoon, raising the cumulative total to 2,885,862 cases with 32,361 deaths, according to local media CTV.