Blend of optimism and caution highlights Canada's COVID-19 forecast

Across Canada a blend of optimism and caution is emerging as provinces and territories revise their strategies for riding out the latest wave of the pandemic.

In Saskatchewan where rising hospital admissions and staff shortages due to COVID-19 are a growing concern, the provincial health authority says it is looking at redeploying staff from other government departments to bolster the health-care system.

Next door in Alberta, Premier Jason Kenney says there are signs the province has "reached and surpassed" peak COVID-19 cases in the fifth wave. But he is still warning that hospitalizations -- currently at record levels -- will continue rising and put more pressure on an already overwhelmed health system.

In an effort to cope with that scenario the province says it will create new pandemic response units in Edmonton and Calgary.

More than 2,100 new COVID cases were reported in British Columbia Thursday as the province announced that 200-thousand COVID-19 test kits will be distributed among elementary and high schools to try to keep them open.

Ontario Premier Doug Ford said this week that he's confidant the latest COVID wave powered by the Omicron variant has now crested. However, Doctor Gerald Evan -- one of Ontario's COVID advisers -- has warned that Ford is acting too soon with his plan to start easing health restrictions at the end of January.

Quebec's Health Department reported a slight dip in COVID hospitalizations Thursday, its first since Dec. 16. But unlike Ontario, Premier Francois Legault said the situation in his province's hospitals remains too fragile to start loosening restrictions that have kept gyms, bars and entertainment venues closed since December.

In Atlantic Canada there are glimmers of optimism, with Newfoundland and Labrador announcing that students in kindergarten to Grade 12 will head back to in-class learning on Tuesday, and Prince Edward Island reporting COVID-19 recoveries are currently outpacing new cases.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 21, 2022.

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