Watch here: Health officials to showcase latest COVID-19 modeling for the Netherlands at 2:00 p.m. NT

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As health officials try to contain a growing outbreak of COVID-19 in central Newfoundland, an Eastern Health clinical scientist and professor of medicine at Memorial University predicts that wave four will lead to increased hospitalizations and intensive care.

Dr Proton Rahman is leading the analysis team tasked with tracking data surrounding COVID-19 and on Wednesday presented the latest projection models for Newfoundland and Labrador as new cases of COVID continue to rise.

There is a key difference between the most recent outbreak and that seen in February in eastern Newfoundland, he said, the latter being due to the Alpha variant while the new outbreak is linked to the Delta variant.

“The Delta variant, in layman’s terms, is meaner. It’s a beast in terms of infectivity as well as severity,” he said.

Rahman said the original strain of COVID-19 predicted that people would only transmit the virus to two or three other people. The same infection with the Delta variant can spread to six to eight others.

For short-term projections over the rest of the week, Rahman said the number of cases is actually expected to gradually decline due to public health interventions. The intensive care occupation is expected to reach six to eight cases at present.

On Tuesday, four people were hospitalized.

He said that with the original strain, only 60-70% of the immunity would have been enough for the virus to die slowly. With the Delta variant, approximately 80-90% immunity is required.

“Even though 80% of the eligible vaccination rate is quite an achievement, we need to go further with more vaccines,” he said.

A graph demonstrating the difference between the February outbreak due to the Alpha variant coronavirus and the more recent outbreak due to the Delta variant. (Government of Newfoundland and Labrador)

The increase in the number of new cases over the past week has occurred among unvaccinated people, with a significant portion being older people. Another COVID-related death was reported last week, marking the eighth death in the province since the start of the pandemic.

Last week’s peak was also seen in children under the age of 12. Children under 12 cannot yet be vaccinated.

“The best way to protect them is to make sure that we have very minimal or low community transmission so that they don’t introduce the virus into school,” Rahman said.

“So, [there needs to be] more emphasis on the fact that we really need to come together as a community, monitor public health measures and get vaccinated. “

The new provincial modeling relies on the absence of new clusters, which would change its dynamics, he said.

Changes to travel

The recent spike in cases prompted the province to tighten travel restrictions on Tuesday and halt freer travel associated with the Atlantic bubble.

These changes mean that any traveler who is partially vaccinated with a dose will now have to meet the same requirements as those who are not vaccinated. Travelers in this category are required to self-isolate for two weeks upon arrival in Newfoundland and Labrador, but can take a COVID-19 test from the seventh to ninth day of their isolation period.

Changes are effective from 12:01 am Thursday.

Premier Andrew Furey also said on Tuesday that the province was discussing with unions the need to make vaccines mandatory for public servants.

Read more articles from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador


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