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.

Calgary Herald - - NP - RYAN TUMILTY

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.”

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