Canada’s COVID-19 cases surpassed 700,000 on Saturday, with the total hitting 700,988, including 17,847 deaths, according to CTV.

Canada reported 22 cases of the B.1.1.17 virus variant found in Britain and one case of the 501Y.V2 virus variant confirmed in South Africa as of January 13, according to the Public Health Agency of Canada, Xinhua news agency reported.

Ontario reported 3,056 new cases of COVID-19 on Saturday morning, as well as 51 more deaths related to the disease.

The province’s total number of cases came to 234,364 and the total number of fatalities rose to 5,340 while the number of recovered patients was 200,406.

Ontario’s seven-day rolling average now stands at 3,218, compared to 3,341 a week ago.

The Ontario government announced Saturday morning that it is extending nearly all emergency orders under the Reopening Ontario Act (ROA) for an additional 30 days, saying the extension of most orders under the act will help to “preserve our health care capacity and protect Ontarians until everyone can be vaccinated.”

The orders under the ROA, which were set to expire on January 20, have been extended until February 19.

Saturday morning, Quebec reported 2,225 new cases and 67 more deaths. The province’s COVID-19 cases came to 240,970 and the deaths number was 9,005 while the total number of recovery was 210,364.

Canada will witness up to 796,630 COVID-19 cases and 19,630 deaths by January 24, as the coronavirus pandemic is worsening rapidly across the country, according to authorities.

In its update report on ‘COVID-19 in Canada: Epidemiology and Modelling’, the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) said on Friday that the number of daily cases could more than triple to 30,000 if people increase their contacts during a time of widespread community transmission.

The report also projected that if Canadians simply maintain their current levels of contact with people outside their households, case counts will still rise to roughly 13,000 a day from 7,900 now.

Unless the extent and severity of COVID-19 restrictions are further intensified, Canada will not be able to suppress the current rate of spread, Chief Public Health Officer Theresa Tam said here on Friday.

“We have yet to see the kind of widespread and sustained declines in daily case counts that would indicate we’re bringing the pandemic under control nationally.”

Addressing a press conference on Friday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said: “We need to keep reducing in-person contacts. For the moment that’s the only way to get these numbers down.

“We’ve seen the kinds of impossible choices hospitals in other countries had to face when they become overwhelmed. Deciding who gets an ICU bed and who doesn’t, well that’s not where we want to be.”

Across the country, there has been a steady increase in hospitalisations in provinces with high infection rates since October 2020, with an average of more than 4,700 people being treated on any given day, with 875 in ICUs.

This has strained the capacity of Canada’s health-care system, and has exhausted health-care workers, Tam said.

COVID-19 deaths are also steadily rising and the daily totals may soon exceed the levels seen during the first peak of the virus last spring.

The daily case counts have already far exceeded the peak of the first wave.

The coronavirus’s spread is still on this rapid growth path as new cases rose again after the holidays likely due to people having more contacts around Christmas and other celebrations, but also likely because people held off from getting tested until in the new year.

While the COVID-19 vaccine¬†rollout has started in the country, Tam said it will still be months before most Canadians get access to vaccine shots and it’s essential that the health-care system has the capacity to administer them on a mass scale when the time comes.

The country has secured more than 400 million vaccine doses from multiple manufacturers, including Pfizer and Moderna, the only two COVID-19 vaccines currently approved in Canada.

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