Seven-year-old Lorena Limdao is held by her father William as Dr. Kevin Evelyn of UHN gives her a COVID-19 vaccine needle while mother Gisella (left) looks on. They were at a "Kids and Families Vaccine Clinic" operated by Black Creek Community Health Centre in the Jane and Finch Mall in Toronto on Thursday, January 13, 2022. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Young

Federal modelling shows COVID-19 hospitalizations to surge

OTTAWA — New modelling by the federal government suggests daily hospitalizations will surge in the coming weeks, driven by extremely high levels of transmission of the Omicron variant of COVID-19.

Though the rate of people who are hospitalized with Omicron is lower compared to the Delta variant, the forecast shows new daily hospital admissions will far exceed previous historical peaks due to the sheer number of cases.

The Public Health Agency of Canada expects the high number of people seeking hospital treatment for COVID-19 will put a significant strain on health-care systems over the next several weeks.

Chief public health officer Dr. Theresa Tam released the new modelling, which suggests the current wave of COVID-19 driven by the Omicron variant will peak this month at between 170,000 and 300,000 actual daily cases.

“The true number of daily cases, driven by extremely high transmissibility of the Omicron variant, could still vastly exceed anything we have experienced to date during this pandemic,” Tam said at a briefing Friday.

Current national case counts show about 37,500 new cases are reported daily, but those are far underestimated because many parts of the country no longer provide laboratory tests for the majority of the population.

About 28 per cent of lab tests that are performed are coming back positive.

“The current very high positivity rate shows that COVID-19 is widespread and that case counts underestimate the true burden of infection in the broader population,” Tam said.

Tam says that the high positivity rate shows that COVID-19 is widespread and that case counts vastly underestimate the true burden of infection in the broader population.

Since the government’s previous update before the holidays, the number of people with COVID-19 treated in hospitals has more than quadrupled to an average of over 6,779 daily, the federal numbers show.

The trends show unvaccinated people are 19 times more likely to be hospitalized with COVID-19 compared to fully vaccinated people.

“We need to continue efforts to increase vaccine coverage to enhance protection for everyone we can,” Tam said.

Tam said she is hopeful that cases and hospitalizations in Canada will soon peak, following the trajectory seen in the United States and the United Kingdom.

Still, she warned even the downside of the curve will have consider health system impacts.

She urged Canadians to get up to date on their vaccines and continue to follow public health measures and limit contacts outside their households.