Canada says COVID-19 Delta variant could cause greater than expected surge

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Patients wait outside a COVID-19 vaccination clinic, as efforts continue to help slow the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada March 30, 2021. REUTERS/Blair Gable

OTTAWA, June 25 (Reuters) - Canada projects COVID-19 infections will decline rapidly over the next two months, but the more contagious Delta variant risks causing a greater-than-expected resurgence of cases later this year, public health officials said on Friday.

Canadian provinces are opening up businesses again as vaccinations advance rapidly. More than 76% of eligible Canadians have had at least a first dose, and more than 26% have had a second, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said on Friday.

"Because people got vaccinated, because people stayed at home and followed public health rules, the current situation is rather encouraging," Trudeau told reporters, commenting on the projections.

But Theresa Tam, the country's chief health officer, said there needed to be a controlled and gradual reopening because a resurgence is possible if reopening businesses increases contact rates by 50% or more.

The Delta variant is driving up cases again in Britain, Tam noted, urging further vaccine uptake by Canadians, which she said could help counteract the effect of the variant.

By the middle of next week, Canada will have received enough vaccines to fully immunize 75% of its population of 38 million, said Brigadier General Kris Broider, head of logistics for the vaccination rollout.

Reporting by Steve Scherer and David Ljunggren

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