New Canadian modelling shows COVID-19 waning but relaxing restrictions still risky

New Canadian modelling shows COVID-19 waning but relaxing restrictions still risky

OTTAWA — Canada’s top doctor says the country has been successful at slowing the spread of COVID-19 but warns that relaxing public health restrictions too quickly or too soon could lead to a rampant resurgence of the disease.

Dr. Theresa Tam presented a new report on the novel coronavirus in Canada Thursday, including new short-term projections that say between 157 and 1,857 more Canadians could die of COVID-19 in the next 11 days.

The projections, based on recent trends, estimate in the best-case scenario at least another 4,459 people will be diagnosed with COVID-19 by June 15, and in the worst-case scenario there will be more than 14,000 new cases by then. What happens depends almost entirely on how well Canadians practise proper public health behaviours, and how good health systems are at testing, contact tracing and isolating positive cases.

“Without a vaccine or treatment, public health measures remain essential to control the epidemic,” said Tam.

Canada has been averaging just under 800 new cases a day for the last week, down from an average of 1,050 new cases the week before that.

Tam said most of the country has seen spread of the disease diminish substantially but there remain hot spots of community transmission in Toronto and Montreal that are concerning. In the last two weeks, Ontario and Quebec accounted for 90 per cent of new cases, and most of those were in those two cities.

Tam said the efforts Canada has made, including physical distancing and closures of businesses and public spaces, have allowed us to flatten the curve, but we can’t get cocky and think the worst is over so we can get back to normal now.

“Resurgence can actually occur at any time over the course of the outbreak depending on what we’re doing on the ground,” she said. “We mustn’t forget that.”

As of Thursday, Tam said, Canada has had 93,441 positive cases and 7,543 deaths. She said about 16 per cent of patients required hospitalization and three per cent needed to be admitted to intensive care.

The eight per cent death rate reflects the number of outbreaks in long-term-care homes — more than 80 per cent of patients who died are connected to long term care homes or seniors’ residences. But Tam said the rate must be viewed knowing the overall number of people who have had COVID-19 is not yet known, because lab-confirmed cases are “just the tip of the iceberg.”

Plans to test Canadians for antibodies to detect whether they have had the novel coronavirus will give a better sense of the true number of cases, Tam said.

The modelling also shows Canada has successfully reduced the reproductive rate — the number of additional people infected by a single person with COVID-19. This virus is highly infectious and in some parts of the world the rate was as high as five, meaning every person getting COVID-19 was passing it on to five more people.

In Canada, the rate peaked at just more than two, but the numbers show that began to decline sharply in the last week of March when the country went into strict lockdown in almost every province. Tam said the rate needs to be consistently below one for more than three weeks to be sure public health measures are working.

It has been below one most of the time since the beginning of May but the hotspots of community transmission in Toronto and Montreal are exceptions, said Tam.

Overall, the report says, with a high degree of physical distancing and case testing and tracing, Canadians can expect that the number of new cases will stay very low, including no real second wave in the fall.

With weaker controls, a surge of cases could see half of Canadians infected, with a rising number of cases throughout the summer and into next winter.

With no controls at all, as many as 80 per cent of Canadians will get infected by the end of the summer.

“It doesn’t take very long for an outbreak to really gain some steam,” said Health Minister Patty Hajdu.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said earlier Wednesday he is encouraged by the overall trends in Canada but warned the country is not out of the woods.

Clusters of cases of COVID-19 have disproportionately affected institutional settings including long-term care homes, hospitals, prisons and meat plants. Canada’s largest single outbreak is linked to the Cargill meat-processing plant in Alberta, with 1,560 cases including workers, their family members and others in their communities.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 4, 2020.

Mia Rabson, The Canadian Press

Coronavirus

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Alberta has 3,651 active cases of COVID-19. (File photo)
432 new COVID cases sets another record Friday

Central zone holds steady at 126 active cases

"We are looking seriously at the spread and determining what our next steps should be," says Alberta’s chief medical officer of health, Dr. Deena Hinshaw, as the daily number of COVID-19 cases continues to climb.
427 new COVID cases is highest in Alberta ever

Central zone has 126 active cases of COVID-19

100 Women Who Care make a donation to Sylvan Lake Food Bank and Bethany Care Centre. Photo By Megan Roth/Sylvan Lake News
100 Women Who Care donate to four Sylvan Lake groups

The Food Bank, Bethany Sylvan Lake, Community Partners and the Library all received a donation

RCMP. (Black Press File Photo)
Calgary man dies in two-vehicle collision near Sylvan Lake

A semi truck collided with a SUV just east of Hwy. 781 on Hwy 11.

Shaelynn Decock and her dog Taco, who has been missing since Aug. 26. Photo Submitted
Sylvan Lake woman looking for closure for her stolen dog

Shaelynn Decock says it has been two months since she last saw her dog Taco

B.C. Liberal leader Andrew Wilkinson, B.C. NDP leader John Horgan and B.C. Greens leader Sonia Furstenau. (Black Press Media)
VIDEO: One day until B.C. voters go to the polls in snap election defined by pandemic

NDP Leader John Horgan’s decision to call an election comes more than a year ahead of schedule and during a pandemic

Comedic actor Seth Rogen, right, and business partner Evan Goldberg pose in this undated handout photo. When actor Seth Rogen was growing up and smoking cannabis in Vancouver, he recalls there was a constant cloud of shame around the substance that still lingers. Rogen is determined to change that. (Maarten de Boer ohoto)
Seth Rogen talks about fighting cannabis stigma, why pot should be as accepted as beer

‘I smoke weed all day and every day and have for 20 years’

Leader of the Opposition Erin O’Toole rises during Question Period in the House of Commons Thursday October 22, 2020 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
O’Toole tells Alberta UCP AGM Liberals were ‘late and confused’ on COVID response

He says Alberta Premier Jason Kenney has taken charge and not waited to make things happen

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney arrives for an announcement at a news conference in Calgary, Alta., Tuesday, Sept. 15, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Todd Korol
Inquiry into oil and gas foes to deliver report next year: Kenney

A lawsuit filed by environmental law firm Ecojustice argues the inquiry is politically motivated

The Canadian border is pictured at the Peace Arch Canada/USA border crossing in Surrey, B.C. Friday, March 20, 2020. More than 4.6 million people have arrived in Canada since the border closed last March and fewer than one-quarter of them were ordered to quarantine while the rest were deemed “essential” and exempted from quarantining. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Majority of international travellers since March deemed ‘essential’, avoid quarantine

As of Oct. 20, 3.5 million travellers had been deemed essential, and another 1.1 million were considered non-essential

This photo provided by Air Force Reserve shows a sky view of Hurricane Epsilon taken by Air Force Reserve hurricane hunter team over the Atlantic Ocean taken Wednesday, Oct. 21, 2020.   Epsilon’s maximum sustained winds have dropped slightly as it prepares to sideswipe Bermuda on a path over the Atlantic Ocean.  The National Hurricane Center says it should come close enough Thursday, Oct. 22, evening to merit a tropical storm warning for the island.  (Air Force Reserve via AP)
Hurricane Epsilon expected to remain offshore but will push waves at Atlantic Canada

Epsilon is not expected to have any real impact on land

A voter places her absentee ballot in the ballot box, Wednesday, Oct. 7, 2020, at Merrill Auditorium in Portland, Maine. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP/Robert F. Bukaty
American voters living in Canada increasingly being counted in presidential race

The largest number of Canadian-based American voters cast their ballots in New York and California

A composite image of three photographs shows BC NDP Leader John Horgan, left, in Coquitlam, B.C., on Sept. 25, 2020; BC Green Party Leader Sonia Furstenau, centre, in Victoria on Sept. 24, 2020; and BC Liberal Party Leader Andrew Wilkinson Pitt Meadows, B.C., on Sept. 24, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck, Chad Hipolito
British Columbia votes in snap election called during COVID-19 pandemic

NDP Leader John Horgan called the snap election one year before the fixed voting date

Nunavut's provincial flag flies on a flag pole in Ottawa, on Tuesday June 30, 2020. The annual report from Nunavut's representative for children and youth says "complacency and a lack of accountability" in the territory's public service means basic information about young people needing services isn’t tracked. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Nunavut’s young people ‘should be expecting more’ from government services: advocate

‘The majority of information we requested is not tracked or was not provided by departments’

Most Read