More than 50,000 Canadians have died after contracting COVID-19 since the pandemic emerged nearly three years ago, the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) confirmed Monday — a sobering reminder that the virus remains a deadly concern.
The national death toll first crossed 50,000 last Tuesday, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University and confirmed by a Global News analysis of provincial health data.
By Monday, the toll had reached 50,135, according to PHAC, which reports national data weekly based on provincial reports that are released throughout the week.
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Quebec, which is the only province that still reports COVID-19 data daily, has seen the most confirmed deaths of any jurisdiction with 17,865 fatalities to date. Ontario has the second-highest provincial death toll as of Friday, which sits at 15,786, followed by Alberta at 5,470 deaths as of Wednesday.
British Columbia has seen 5,007 deaths according to the most recent data released on Thursday, a day that also saw Saskatchewan report a total of 1,826 deaths to date. Friday’s report saw Manitoba record 2,403 deaths since the pandemic began.
In Atlantic Canada, New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island have recorded 762 and 85 deaths, respectively, as of Tuesday. Newfoundland and Labrador upped its death toll to 297 on Wednesday. As of Thursday, Nova Scotia has seen 706 deaths.
Yukon, the Northwest Territories and Nunavut stopped reporting their data last year, and have confirmed a combined 61 deaths since early 2020, half of which were in the Yukon.
Despite the prevalence of COVID-19 vaccines, treatments and overall immunity to the virus, about 40 Canadians are still dying from COVID-19 per day on average, according to Global News’ analysis of provincial data.
Those figures reflect the number of people confirmed to have tested positive for COVID-19 who later died as a result of the disease.
Public health experts have long said the true death toll is likely far higher than the official count. Since the more transmissible Omicron variant took hold in late 2021, most COVID-19 tests are performed privately at home and not shared with public health authorities.
The World Health Organization said in May that, while the official worldwide death toll from COVID-19 at the time was about 6.2 million, an estimated 14.9 million deaths were “directly or indirectly” related to the pandemic.
The estimate, based on excess mortality compared to pre-pandemic years, included indirect deaths caused by impacts the pandemic had on the overall health-care systems and social services around the world.
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The number of confirmed deaths around the world has since climbed to over 6.7 million, according to Johns Hopkins University and the WHO.
The WHO’s latest situation report says confirmed global COVID-19 deaths have risen about 18 per cent since the week before and are up 20 per cent from the previous 28-day period.
As of Friday, more than 4,400 Canadians are in hospital with COVID-19, including over 240 patients in intensive care, according to provincial data. Those numbers have declined over 10 per cent from just a week ago.
An average of about 1,800 new infections are still being confirmed per day, which is down about 15 per cent from the rate seen two months ago.
The country is currently monitoring the spread of XBB.1.5, a sub-lineage of the Omicron subvariant XBB that has been deemed by the WHO as the “most transmissible” COVID-19 variant so far.
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The subvariant, which has earned the nickname Kraken on social media, is spreading rapidly in Asia and is believed to now account for about half of all new cases in the United States, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
On Friday, Canada’s chief public health officer Dr. Theresa Tam said the variant’s spread has risen from 2.5 per cent of new Canadian infections at the start of this year to about seven per cent by mid-January.
She added it remains unknown whether XBB.1.5 will become the dominant strain in Canada as it has in the northeastern U.S., where it accounts for 70 per cent of cases.
“The absolute number of cases is not surging at this time, nor is there evidence of increased severity with this or other new variants,” she told reporters in Ottawa, citing the overall seven-day average in cases and declining hospitalizations.
PHAC has not said yet if it considers XBB.1.5. a variant of concern.
— with files from Teresa Wright
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