THE SPREAD OF THE NOVEL CORONAVIRUS IN CANADA IS SLOWING DOWN, BUT HEALTH OFFICIALS SAY IT COULD RETURN WITH A VENGEANCE IF CONTACT TRACING AND TESTING MEASURES AREN’T STEPPED UP.
OTTAWA • The spread of the COVID-19 pandemic in Canada is slowing down, but health officials warned it could come back with a vengeance this fall if contact tracing and testing aren’t stepped up.
The country is expected to have between 98,000 and 107,000 confirmed cases of the virus and between 7,700 and 9,400 deaths by the middle of June, according to modelling data released by the government on Thursday.
To date, about 93,000 cases and 7,495 deaths have been reported in the country. And about 94 per cent of the deaths have occurred in those aged 60 or over, according to the data. That age group also makes up more than 70 per cent of the hospital admissions for the virus.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said the situation remained serious.
“The pandemic is still threatening the health and safety of Canadians,” he said. “While we start loosening some restrictions, we also have to strengthen other measures like testing and contact tracing.”
Trudeau said people need to keep a two-metre distance from each other, wear a mask when that’s not possible, and wash their hands frequently.
The numbers show more than 90 per cent of the new cases in the last two weeks have been in Ontario and Quebec.
The government didn’t include long-term projections for the virus as it did in previous models, which in April predicted between 11,000 and 22,000 deaths over the course of the pandemic.
Dr. Theresa Tam, Canada’s chief public health officer, said experts need to better understand how far the virus may have spread in the community, among people who may not have been tested.
“We know the lab confirmed cases are probably just the tip of the iceberg.”
The data of confirmed cases shows the virus appears to have peaked in Canada in early April and new infections have generally been on the wane since then. However, if adequate measures aren’t in place, the government is predicting the virus could infect more than three times as many people in October as it did during the April peak.
“These models all tell us that if we relax too much, or too soon, the epidemic will most likely rebound, with explosive growth as a distinct possibility,” said Tam.
The modelling information also showed the reproductive value, the measure of the virus’s spread, has been below one, suggesting the spread of the virus could gradually die out.
“We will need to keep it consistently below one for more than three weeks,” she said. “Without a vaccine or treatment, public health measures remain essential to control the epidemic.”