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Omicron wave, vaccination rates mean Canada well protected for now: Tam

Even if they are not mandatory, Dr. Theresa Tam says face masks should be kept on hand.
Chief Public Health Officer of Canada Dr. Theresa Tam is seen via videoconference as Minister of Health Jean-Yves Duclos looks on during a news conference on the COVID-19 pandemic and the omicron variant, in Ottawa, on Friday, Jan. 7, 2022.

Canada's chief public health officer says that as long as Omicron remains the dominant variant of COVID-19 in Canada, the risk of another massive wave of infections is low.

Dr. Theresa Tam says the number of cases of Omicron in recent months, coupled with Canada's high vaccination rates, created good community-level protection against COVID-19 for now.

She warns that if another variant emerges that is significantly different from Omicron, and able to evade current vaccines, that could change.

But even in that scenario, she says better treatments and more availability of rapid tests make it unlikely that more disruptive measures like school closures and gathering limits will be needed.

Tam says face masks should be kept on hand as the first line of defence against COVID-19 even if they are not mandatory.

Alberta and Saskatchewan lifted mask mandates this week, with Manitoba following mid-month, Ontario possibly by month's end and Quebec by the middle of April.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 4, 2022.