Madam Speaker, I am pleased to rise in the House today to address the motion of the hon. member for Wellington—Halton Hills.
As summer approaches, we are seeing a strong and steady decline in COVID-19 cases across Canada. Strict public health measures and ramped-up vaccination campaigns have pushed the national case count to its lowest level in weeks. In much of the country, the pandemic outlook is improving. COVID-19 infection rates have peaked in most areas of the country, followed by the slower decline in hospitalization rates.
As members know, there are exceptions. In places where infection rates are still very high, such as in Manitoba, hospitalization rates have not yet begun to decline. That is because the average length of stay for people hospitalized with COVID-19 is two weeks. For those experiencing more severe illness, it is closer to three weeks. The number of hospitalized patients accumulates over time while infection rates remain high, but, as I said, the situation is improving in most areas of the country.
With the steady decline of infection rates and strong and steady increases in vaccination rollout and uptake, we are on track for a better outdoor summer and a safer fall. That is great news for everyone, but we have to continue this momentum. The more people who get fully vaccinated, the safer it will be to ease restrictions and individual precautions. Only then can we get back to more interactions and activities, including spending more time together indoors.
As immunity builds up across the population, keeping infection rates down is crucial. It is still important that Canadians continue to follow local public health advice, including when and where to maintain essential precautions, such as masking and spacing. Now is not the time to relax our measures. Doing so would increase the number of community-wide in-person contacts that would likely result in a resurgence of the virus.
The experiences of other countries show the need to maintain strong public health measures as vaccines roll out. Easing measures must be done in a controlled and gradual way as COVID-19 infection rates decline.
In the U.K., more than 70% of adults aged 18 or over have had at least one dose and over 45% are fully immunized. It is important to note that measures have been relaxed slowly and cautiously in that country. It is also worth remembering that the U.K. sustained the most restrictive measures until incidence rates were several times lower than they currently are in Canada.
While countries with high vaccination rates are making great strides, some of them experienced resurgences along the way. Even the U.K. is still experiencing pockets of increased disease activity fuelled by variants of concern in areas with low vaccination coverage. In Canada, gradual and cautious lifting of restrictive measures can happen safely once infection rates are low. We will need to maintain vigilance everywhere, while vaccines continue to build up immunity across the Canadian population.
Several conditions must be met before we consider easing restrictive public health measures. These are controlled transmission; sufficient testing and contact tracing capacity; a low number of cases, allowing for testing and tracing to cope with outbreaks and surges; and high vaccine coverage in at-risk populations and settings, such as congregate living for seniors.
With a plan in place, public health measures could be eased in very low-risk settings. However, if modelling-based forecasts suggest a resurgence, an increase in COVID-19 positive cases or a declining adherence to public health measures, then public health measures should be reinstated. Public health measures should also be reinstated if the spread of variants of concern becomes increasingly prevalent.
So far, Health Canada has authorized four different COVID-19 vaccines: Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna, AstraZeneca and Janssen. Health Canada has also authorized the use of the Pfizer vaccine in children 12 to 15 years of age. Each of these vaccines have been shown to be very effective at preventing hospitalizations and death. We are making excellent progress in distributing these vaccines to the provinces and territories, with deliveries increasing every week.
More than 22 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines have been administered in Canada since vaccination began in mid-December, providing 62% of eligible adults with at least one dose of COVID-19 vaccine.
Indigenous communities and the territories have made excellent strides—