Canada nearing best-case scenario, according to new COVID-19 projections

OTTAWA (NEWS 1130) — The transmission rate of COVID-19 in Canada is now doubling every 16 days, new modelling numbers released by federal health officials Tuesday show.

The rate was doubling every three to five days a month ago.

At the same time, Canada could see as many as 900 more COVID-19 deaths in the next week.

The new modelling forecasts deaths in Canada due to COVID-19 to range between 3,300 and 3,900 by May 5, as the growth in cases slows.

The predicted number of cases could range from 53,000 to 67,000 by the same date.

Canada had recorded 2,766 COVID-19 deaths as of early Tuesday — the majority of them being elderly people — along with more than 49,000 confirmed cases.

“Right now, we are seeing the tragic paradox of the epidemic playing out as the epidemic comes under control, and the growth of cases slows, the severe outcomes and deaths continue to accrue as COVID-19 takes a heavy toll among highly susceptible,” Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Theresa Tam said.

Projections in early April suggested COVID-19 could cause between 11,000 and 22,000 deaths in total.

Health officials said long-term projections can be adjusted.

“In order for the epidemic to die out, we need to get to the point where each infected individual is only transmitting the virus to less than one other person, which is one of the primary objectives of all of our public health measures,” Tam said.

“Prior to implementing public health control measures in March. We estimated that each infected person passed the virus onto an average of just over two additional people. Today, stronger controls, including physical distancing, increased testing to identify and isolate cases and trace and quarantine contacts are helping to reduce the average number of people each case.”

Tam said the epidemiologic picture in Canada continues to highlight regional differences, with Ontario and Quebec representing more than 80 per cent of all confirmed cases. B.C. and Alberta are the next most effective provinces, accounting for 14 per cent of cases.

Tam added the case fatality ratio is expected to change over time.

She also said adults aged 60 and older account for 95 per cent of deaths, while only 45 per cent of reported cases of male, although they are more likely to be admitted to the hospital and intensive care.

Tam added outbreaks and high-risk populations are driving regional epidemics, in particular those at long-term care and seniors homes, and are responsible for the majority of all deaths in Canada.

Congregate living, such as correctional facilities, and work settings are also driving case counts in some provinces, she said.

Tam said Canadians must maintain a high degree of physical distancing, while also maintaining a high rate of case detection and isolation and contact tracing and quarantine to maintain a best-case scenario.

“All jurisdictions are working towards epidemic control. However, it is critical to remember that once we are on the downside of the slope, we must absolutely remain vigilant and continue our public health measures by achieving epidemic control,” she said.

Only a small proportion of the population is expected to be immune to COVID-19.

“So until the population has developed a high level of immunity to the virus or we have a vaccine in place. We have to plan to live with a manageable level of COVID-19 activity. Therefore, we anticipate that some public health measures will need to remain in place to prevent the sparking and growth of future epidemic waves.”

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