July 21, 2020 / 4:55 PM / 20 days ago

Canada authorities had expected coronavirus spike, fret about young victims

OTTAWA (Reuters) - Canada’s recent increase in coronavirus infections was expected as the economy reopens, a senior medical official said on Tuesday, while expressing concern about young people contracting the virus.

FILE PHOTO: People walk through the Rideau Centre, as efforts continue to help slow the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada July 13, 2020. REUTERS/Blair Gable

Howard Njoo, Canada’s deputy chief public health officer, said the success of efforts to combat the outbreak was fragile and could be undermined by complacency.

The daily case count across Canada is around 460, compared with 300 earlier this month. The 10 provinces are gradually lifting restrictions imposed in March.

“Provinces (are) ... trying to reopen at I think a very prudent pace. But everyone recognizes we would expect to get clusters of cases,” Njoo said.

Officials in major cities attribute the spike in part to young people gathering in bars and at parties.

Njoo said young adults made up around 55% of new cases, compared with one third in May.

“That is concerning,” he said, blaming fatigue after months of lockdown and a feeling among the young that they are invincible.

The premier of Ontario, the most-populous Canadian province, said he was concerned by an uptick in cases among people under 39, blaming a small number of young people “going hog wild.”

“Just don’t go to a party, simple ... you’re hurting people by doing this,” Premier Doug Ford said.

The western province of Alberta is also seeing a spike in cases. Premier Jason Kenney said, however, that it would fully reopen schools this autumn.

“Evidence is overwhelming that schools can be operated safely and with little health risk for children and teachers, and low risk of causing outbreaks,” Kenney said.

Canada has recorded 111,124 cases and 8,858 deaths, far fewer per capita than in the United States.

“All of us in Canada ... are looking very carefully and I think with some alarm, at what’s happening in the United States,” said Njoo.

Reporting by David Ljunggren; Additional reporting by Moira Warburton in Toronto and Rod Nickel in Winnipeg; Editing by Tom Brown and Peter Cooney

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