Images of Canada’s stifled capital and pandemic-rules-related protests have put the nation’s Covid response into the spotlight.
The trucker-led protest to end the mandate to get vaccines has grown to encompass all sorts of restrictions on public health.
Since the outbreak started, Canada has fared far better than the US despite similar differences in income, territorial divisions, and co-morbidities like hypertension and obesity, as does its southern neighbor.
There’s a stark distinction, for instance, the number of Americans who Covid has killed compared to Canadians in absolute numbers and terms of proportion in deaths for million.
What’s happening in Canada, and how can its experiences differ from those of the US? In the face of increasing pressure from the public to ease restrictions imposed on Canada, will Canada be in a position to keep the pandemic in check in the future?
What are the numbers that show?
The percentage of daily new confirmed Covid cases is more diminutive in Canada than in the US through the entire Covid pandemic.
On February 12, and despite infection rates declining across the country, there were no new outbreaks in the US at around 543 per million people compared to 258 in Canada, according to Our World in Data, which is a partnership between Oxford University and an educational charity.
The path of this pandemic is similar across the two countries—the incidence increases and decreases at about the same time. There was a notable distinction of the second US increase during the summer of 2021.
“In reality, however, the replication frequency of the disease has been similar,” said Canadian national Dr. Mark Cameron, an associate professor in the department of health sciences for the population and quantitative at Case Western University in Ohio. “[ButCanada’s per capita cases have generally been less than half the rate in the US.”
According to Johns Hopkins University, the total number of deaths from this pandemic across the US is estimated at 99,000, compared to just 35,500 deaths in Canada.
Although the number of people living in the US is more than 332.4 million, over eight times that of Canada’s 38.2 million, the proportion of deaths for million residents is far higher than Canada’s.
Another set of data collected from Johns Hopkins shows that as of February 11, 279 US residents have died from Covid per 100,000, compared to around 94 in Canada.
Rates of vaccination and differences in healthcare
As of February 9, the majority of the population in Canada had been fully immunized against Covid-19. This includes the remaining 5% partially vaccinated. This means they’d received at minimum one dose of the multi-dose vaccine.
64% of Americans are fully vaccinated in the US, and 12% are partially vaccinated.
In contrast to the US, however, Canada has a universal public, decentralized, and privately funded health system administered by 13 provinces and territories.
“That means that all people can access healthcare, regardless of economic status,” explained Dr. Donald Vinh, an infectious disease specialist at the McGill University Health Centre in Montreal. “The most important aspect is that regardless of where you’re at the point of illness, you’ll have access to health care.”
More Americans ended up in intensive care facilities also. This month, during the Omicron storm, this amount was at a high of nearly 79 per million while the Canadian average was 32 per million.
“That is an aspect of the healthcare system. Canada tends to intervene faster with different approaches than in the US,” Dr. Cameron stated. “That’s where severe cases can end when different approaches and interventions haven’t worked.”
According to Ross Upshur, a professor of public health at the University of Toronto, the existence of universal health insurance can be one of the “simplest” reasons for the country’s lower rates of infection and deaths.
“Most Canadians would not swap our health system even with its flaws to a US healthcare system.” the doctor said.
In Canada, similar to the US provincial and territorial governments, individual provinces and territories can apply and repeal local laws governing conduct like dining out or gyms and other public venues – whenever they think appropriate.
The federal government has authority over matters like vaccine passports for travel within the country and vaccine requirements for federal workers or truckers who cross borders. This was the first issue that led to the protests.
In the US, certain cities such as New York have introduced vaccine passes to access bars and restaurants. However, Canada’s regulations are more stringent and have lasted longer.
Canadian public health experts, as well as numerous government officials, believe that the more gradual loosening of these regulations that are based on improved public health information – had enabled it to stay clear of large numbers of infections and deaths observed in the US in the past when numbers soared in several places which rushed to relax rules.
These measures have proved “quite secure” in the case of Canadians and put them “in a better position” over Americans, as per Dr. Vinh.
“The acceptance of public policies is an important aspect determining the effect on the two countries,” said the researcher. “But it doesn’t mean the Canadian population isn’t frustrated with Covid or other public health initiatives.”
The provincial government officials across Canada are starting to relax restrictions. This week Alberta has ended the proof of vaccination system and plans to eliminate the need for masks for children at schools. Children younger than 12 won’t be required to wear masks.
In Ontario, authorities are set to begin eliminating measures such as limiting capacity in gyms and restaurants. The requirement for proof of vaccination will be eliminated on March 1. Ontario The premier Doug Ford said that the province’s efficient management with Omicron’s variant Omicron variant had enabled it to “fast move” the reopening of its plans.
The ease in restrictions is happening amid Canada is struggling to deal with the economic effects of the pandemic. The rate of unemployment in Canada increased by half a percentage point higher to 6.5 percent at the beginning of January in 2022, according to statistics obtained from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). In the US, the rate of unemployment is 4%.
The necessity of balancing public health issues with these social and economic issues, Dr. Vinh said, is frequently challenging and has put Canada’s federal and provincial governments in an “unenviable” situation.
“We have lots of open-minded doctors and scientists from every province who keep an eye on the policies to ensure they’re not in the least hazardous,” he said. “There’s still a scientific and a political division.”
Dr. Vinh said that the portion of the population in Canada that is opposed to these measures might not be representative of the whole country. Overall the debate is more politically charged than those in the US.
“I believe the US is similarly disjointed, but on a greater level,” he said. “The scientific method is the message, while the politics are the noise. Inability to recognize the difference between noise and signal could be a major contributing factor to the plight they’re currently in.”
Health officials from the public sector warn that even though most of Canada’s provinces are experiencing declines in deaths and cases, the risk of it being too soon to ease all of Canada’s Covid-induced public health programs.
“We’re not yet out from the woods, but we’re making progress,” Dr. Vinh said. “The issue of improvement is that if perform too much, too fast, you can cause more harm to the patient.
“It’s similar to being able to recover from an injury to your leg. It is important to learn to stand, sit and walk before you can run in a sprint.”
Dr. Vinh declared that a “strategic and staggered procedure that is constantly monitoring the metrics” could be required to give federal and provincial authorities the ability to adapt to the pandemic changes.
“People get tired and want to put the issue away,” professor Upshur said. “But you can’t do it – or even honk the thing away.”