More than 30 per cent of eligible Canadians aged 12 and over have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19, while the daily count for new cases on Monday fell below 500 for the first time since Labour Day of last year.
As of Monday evening, 31.9 per cent of eligible Canadians have received two required vaccine doses, according to the COVID-19 Vaccine Tracker — equalling more than 10.5 million people.
Just over 77 per cent — or 25.6 million people — have received at least one shot.
The ever-increasing vaccine coverage comes as just 461 new COVID-19 infections were reported nationwide Monday, the lowest number since Sept. 6, 2020.
The seven-day average also fell to 646.3 new cases per day, also matching early September levels. The average has fallen 92 per cent from the peak of the third wave in April and 74 per cent from the beginning of June.
Ten more deaths were also reported Monday, although some of the fatalities in British Columbia and Alberta occurred over the weekend.
The number of vaccine doses being administered per day has continued to increase after a sluggish winter and spring — likely contributing to the declining infections — despite fewer Canadians now opting to get their first shot.
Canada is now dispensing an average of 1.25 doses per 100 people daily, the fourth-fastest rate in the world and a new record pace for the country.
Yet just under three per cent of the total population received their first dose over the past two weeks, compared to seven per cent over the previous two weeks.
The number of people getting their second shot has more than doubled since mid-June, however, leaping from 12.17 per cent of the total population to 26.42 as of Sunday.
Despite those positive trends, health officials are warning that the highly transmissible Delta variant — which is more resistant to a single vaccine dose — could spark a resurgence of the pandemic if inoculation rates stagnate and health measures are lifted too quickly.
“If the Delta variant becomes predominant, modelling suggests we may be at risk of a greater than expected resurgence this fall and/or winter,” Canada’s chief public health officer Dr. Theresa Tam said in a statement Monday.
“This is why it is more important than ever for as many people as possible to get fully vaccinated across Canada.”
Tam said cases of the Delta variant have been identified across the country and have increased, but did not provide an exact number or rate of growth. Data on the variant has not been made available on the Public Health Agency of Canada’s website.
But federal data shows most of the cases are found in people who haven’t been vaccinated against COVID-19 or only have one shot.
Provinces and territories haven’t let fears of the Delta variant interrupt their reopening plans, however.
Saskatchewan and Alberta both plan in July to remove nearly all of their measures, including provincial rules around mask wearing. There were only 17 new confirmed cases in Saskatchewan on Monday and 31 in Alberta, which also reported two new deaths since Thursday.
The Northwest Territories partially lifted its own mask restrictions on Monday, after not reporting any new local cases in over a month.
Ottawa re-releases COVID-19 risk assessment tool
Officials in British Columbia said the province is still on track for a further loosening of restrictions on Thursday, including no limits on indoor restaurant dining and the resumption of fairs and festivals under certain health measures.
The move is being made thanks to high vaccination rates and a drop in cases, the province said. Only 38 new infections were reported Monday, while five more people have died since Friday.
Manitoba on Saturday lifted some restrictions a week earlier than initially set out in its reopening plan, including the reopening of restaurants and churches.
The province, which was battling a devastating third wave of the pandemic just a month ago, reported just 61 new cases and no new deaths Monday.
In Quebec, all regions were brought into the “green zone” of public health restrictions, the province’s lowest rating. Increased gatherings are now allowed on restaurant and bar patios and at weddings and funerals.
There were no new deaths to report on Monday, while only 76 new cases were confirmed.
Monday also saw Ontario, which added 210 new cases and three more deaths, speed up appointments for all adults to get their second vaccine dose.
The expansion of accelerated second doses comes just two days before Ontario is due to enter Step 2 of its reopening plan. That phase will allow indoor gatherings of up to five people and see hair salons resume operation for the first time in months.
Travel within Atlantic Canada has been eased as the region sees a sharp decline in cases as well. On Monday, just six new infections were reported across three provinces, including one each in New Brunswick and Newfoundland and Labrador.
In the north, the Yukon is dealing with a significant outbreak that has caused the territory’s case count to triple in just two weeks. Another 22 cases were reported Monday, with officials warning people to tighten their social circles and continue to get vaccinated.
To date, Canada has seen a total of 1,414,158 cases of COVID-19. Of those, 26,238 people have died and 1,380,124 have recovered, leaving just over 7,700 active cases.
–With files from the Canadian Press
© 2021 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.