OTTAWA, Jan. 23 (Xinhua) -- Stringent and consistent efforts are needed to sustain a downward trend in new COVID-19 cases across Canada, Theresa Tam, Canada's chief public health officer said on Saturday.
"This will not only prevent more tragic outcomes, but will help to ensure that new virus variants of concern do not have the opportunity to spread," said Tam in a statement.
New variants of the virus have been popping up across the country, including in an outbreak at a long-term care home in Ontario province, which has infected nearly all of its residents.
Genome sequencing has confirmed that a variant of the coronavirus first detected in Britain is present at the long-term care home. Some 127 of the home's 129 residents have tested positive for COVID-19. Additionally, 84 staff members have contracted the virus and 32 people have died.
"Unless we continue the hard work to suppress COVID-19 activity across Canada, there is a risk that more transmissible virus variants could take hold or even replace less transmissible variants," which could result in difficulty to control the acceleration of spread, Tam said.
"Staying the course will also buy critical time for vaccines to begin working, as we continue to prepare the way for widespread and lasting control of COVID-19 through safe and effective vaccines," Tam added.
Canada's latest national-level data indicate a recent downward trend in daily case counts over the past 10 days, with a seven-day average of 6,079 new cases daily on Jan 15-21, according to the Public Health Agency of Canada on Saturday.
Ontario, the most populous province in Canada, reported 2,359 new COVID-19 cases and 52 more deaths on Saturday while another populous province Quebec confirmed 1,685 new case and 76 additional deaths.
As of Saturday afternoon, Canada reported a total of 742,531 COVID-19 cases and 18,074 deaths, according to CTV.