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As parts of Canada are seeing staggering increases in COVID-19 activity amid Omicron’s rapid spread, experts say the highly transferable variant is training a spotlight on social inequalities across the country.
Dr. Amit Arya, a palliative care physician in Mississauga, Ont., Says Omicron’s progress continues to show “a tale of two pandemics – rich and poor,” with those who can afford to better protect themselves from them, who can not.
Dr. Andrew Boozary, head of the Social Medicine Program at Toronto’s University Health Network, says that while many essential workers have received two doses of a vaccine, third-dose uptake has been slower among lower-income populations.
Health experts recommend booster shots to increase protection, especially against serious illness and death, both of which appear to be on the rise in parts of Canada.
Ontario on Saturday reported 2,594 patients in the hospital with COVID-19, including 385 in intensive care, while Quebec reported 44 deaths attributed to the virus, the highest daily death toll in nearly a year.
Figures released Saturday in Atlantic Canada, meanwhile, show continued growth in COVID-19 cases where hospitals around the region report approaching or overcapacity.
The number of people at New Brunswick hospitals increased from 69 to 80, with 17 of them on intensive care and 11 on ventilators.
While Omicron is thought to cause less serious illness in some people, experts say characterizing the variant as “mild” can be problematic.
“You hear people say, ‘Why are you worried about Omicron? If you’re healthy and young, it’s not a problem, it’s just a cold. And that’s fake, “Boozary said. “It completely rejects the reality of millions of people in this country.
“It is the complete proficiency of language and tone and politics that puts millions of people at risk.”
Essential workers carried the bulk of COVID-19 infections during Canada’s Delta wave last spring, and Arya says low-wage workers are likely to experience it again.
He says lower-income populations, who make up the majority of essential workers, often cannot afford to buy upgraded N95 masks or rapid antigen tests, nor can they easily take time off work to isolate or get their booster doses .
As the provinces downgrade eligibility for PCR testing, Arya pointed out that private testing companies in Ontario, which can offer same-day results for those willing to pay $ 160 or more for the service, further show the income gap in how people can handle COVID. -19.
“If you have money, you can afford the protection you need to survive and be safe,” he said.
Ontario’s hospital admissions on Saturday had risen from the previous day’s count of 2,472 patients admitted and 338 in intensive care units. There were also 31 new deaths associated with the virus.
Health Minister Christine Elliott said 248 ICU patients are not fully vaccinated or have an unknown immunization status, and 137 are fully vaccinated.
The province also reported 13,362 new COVID-19 cases, but Public Health Ontario says the actual number of cases is likely to be higher due to current test policies that restrict access for many residents.
Quebec cited an 11 percent increase in COVID-19-related hospital admissions, with health officials counting 2,296 patients in the hospital – 163 more than the day before – including 245 people in intensive care, an increase of 16 from the day before.
The province’s 44 deaths, up from 27 a day earlier, mark the worst number since January 27, 2021, when 45 deaths were reported.
Quebec also registered 15,928 new cases of COVID-19.
Nova Scotia on Saturday reported 1,145 new cases of COVID-19, with the province saying it now limits contact tracking to long-term care environments, health facilities, shelters, shelters and other group environments.
New Brunswick had 421 new cases and one new death.