Canada's 3rd wave of COVID-19 is 'killing faster and younger' and fueled by new variants

By Michelle Mark

Canada is battling a surge of coronavirus infections fueled by new variants which is sickening much younger adults than hospitals are accustomed to seeing.

On Saturday evening, the nation surpassed 1 million recorded coronavirus cases since the start of the pandemic. The third wave of coronavirus has mainly struck the provinces of Ontario, Quebec, and British Columbia, prompting all three to implement new restrictions to stop the spread.

Canada's chief public health officer, Dr. Theresa Tam, recently announced a 64% increase in new cases involving coronavirus variants — 90% of which involved the B.1.1.7 variant first found in the United Kingdom in September. 

Ontario, in particular, has reported an influx of much younger patients in ICUs. Nearly half of the province's COVID-19 ICU patients are under the age of 60, officials announced this week.

"It's getting pretty alarming here. It's spreading quickly, and it's much faster than the last two waves," Dr. Kashif Pirzada, an emergency physician in Toronto, told CNN. "The people filling the ICU right now are all in their 30s, 40s, and 50s." 

Pirzada recently tweeted images of cloudy-looking lungs from ICU patients in their 30s.

"As the new variants spread, you will see that COVID-19 is killing faster and younger," Adalsteinn Brown, a senior science advisor to the Ontario government, said in a press conference this week. "It's spreading far more quickly than it was before and we cannot vaccinate quickly enough to break this third wave."

Ontario has enacted a month-long "emergency brake" in response to the surge in infections. The new restrictions will shut down gyms, indoor dining, and personal care services, CBC News reported.

Quebec, meanwhile, has implemented a lockdown in three different cities, shutting down schools and non-essential businesses, and enacting a stricter curfew. British Columbia has also put a three-week ban on indoor dining, worship services, and indoor fitness activities. 

Canada has had a remarkably slow vaccine rollout, mainly due to delays in importing doses. The country lacks the capacity to manufacture its own vaccines. As of April 1, just 1.75% of the population was fully vaccinated, and just 11.86% had received at least one dose, according to government data.