The rapid spread of more contagious COVID-19 variants is believed to have driven a devastating third wave in Canada.
As of Saturday afternoon, a total of 30,108 variant of concern cases have been reported across Canada, including 28,624 B.1.1.7 variants, 1,133 P.1 variants and 351 B.1.351 variants, according to CTV.
As of Saturday afternoon, Canada reported 5,986 new cases of COVID-19, bringing the cumulative total to 1,051,246, including 23,282 deaths, according to CTV.
"Although B.1.1.7, which is now confirmed in all provinces and two territories, continues to account for the majority of variants of concern in Canada and has likely replaced the original virus in some areas, there has been a concerning rise in P.1 cases in recent weeks," said Theresa Tam, Canada's chief public health officer, said in a statement on Saturday.
"Early evidence suggests that the P.1 variant may reduce the effectiveness of vaccines, making it even more important to control its spread," Tam added in the statement.
The number of confirmed variant cases in Canada has skyrocketed in recent weeks, rising from about 2,000 a month ago to over 30,000 as of Saturday afternoon and counting, with more than 90 percent of those being the B.1.1.7 variant first identified in Britain.
The P1 variant first discovered in Brazil is also on the rise in Canada, with cases increasing to more than 1,100 as of Saturday afternoon, mostly in the populous provinces of British Columbia, Ontario and Alberta.
Meanwhile, the B.1.351 variant first found in South Africa is also picking up steam, with more than 350 cases identified in the country.
"The race between the vaccine and the variants is at a critical point," Tam said. "It is clear that we need stronger control to combat variants of concern that are driving rapid epidemic growth in many areas of the country."
Younger Canadians are being impacted harder in the third wave, Tam said, with infection rates highest among those aged 20 to 39 and a rise in the number of hospitalizations and ICU admissions in those under 60.
The fact is Canada's third wave of COVID-19 is showing no signs of slowing down as the vaccine rollout gradually ramps up, meaning Canadians need to buckle down until more of us get a shot, Canadian experts said.
They added that Canada's slower vaccine rollout means our third wave could last into June.
Altogether, 7,569,321 vaccine doses have been administered as of Friday, according to the Public Health Agency of Canada.