TORONTO — With health authorities across Canada on high alert for another wave of COVID-19 as health restrictions continue to ease, the Atlantic provinces as well as the Northern Territories -West are reporting more COVID-19 cases per capita than anywhere else in Canada or the United States. we
Experts say the high number of cases in these regions is likely due to some of these provinces having fewer restrictions on who is eligible for a COVID-19 test.
According to CTVNews.ca’s tracker comparing Canadian provinces and territories to US states, Prince Edward Island is reporting an average of 350.6 daily cases over the past seven days starting Saturday. This translates to 2,216.6 cases per million, which is more than all other jurisdictions on both sides of the border.
The Northwest Territories ranks second on the list, with an average of 88.3 cases per day. This equates to 1,996.1 cases per million. Next come Newfoundland and Labrador, Nova Scotia and New Brunswick, which report 757.6, 612.1 and 567.0 cases per million, respectively.
Looser testing criteria in some of those provinces “would explain much of the difference, perhaps all of it,” Colin Furness, an infectious disease epidemiology expert at the University of Toronto, told CTVNews.ca in an email on Friday.
However, the Northwest Territories still has the second highest number of COVID-19 cases per capita, despite the territory’s strict PCR testing eligibility criteria. Furness said “lower population immunity in areas that were successful with COVID during the early waves” could be another factor explaining the high number of reported cases in those areas.
In late 2021, when COVID-19 cases spiked across Canada due to the rise of the Omicron variant, many provinces began restricting access to lab testing as the capacity to test was getting tense.
In provinces such as Ontario, Quebec, British Columbia and others, only healthcare workers, people living in long-term care homes, immunocompromised people, pregnant women and other people deemed to be at higher risk of contracting COVID-19 can be tested at a screening clinic. Anyone else with symptoms of COVID-19 is encouraged to stay home and use rapid home tests.
However, in Prince Edward Island, COVID-19 testing clinics are available for anyone who develops symptoms or who has previously tested positive with a rapid home test. Prince Edward Island’s top doctor also attributed the province’s higher caseload to wider access to testing.
“In Prince Edward Island, we had much better access to testing for COVID-19 than in other provinces and territories, as we tested more people. It’s really not accurate to compare our case rates directly with other jurisdictions,” said PEI’s public health chief. Officer Dr Heather Morrison said during a COVID-19 press conference last month.
In Nova Scotia, anyone who is symptomatic and previously tested positive on a rapid test is eligible for a PCR test. New Brunswick and Newfoundland and Labrador have more restrictions on who is eligible for a PCR test, but residents who test positive with a rapid test can report their positive results to their province online.