Canada just saw its 600th case of COVID-19 as of March 18 with the announcement of 23 new cases in Ontario, though the pandemic that has shut down schools, borders, and flights had been seen throughout the world well before case numbers began to climb in North America.
First detected in Wuhan, China on December 29, 2019, the virus has hit hardest in China (80,894), Italy (35,713), Iran (17,361), and Spain (13,910) as of March 17, according to Worldometers.
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China broke 600 cases on January 23, Italy on February 27, Iran on March 1, and Spain on March 8, meaning these countries are 10 or more days ahead of where Canada is at today.
While no two countries can ever be directly compared — population density, cultural customs, and speed of government responses are all factors that impact how quickly a virus can spread — taking a look at other countries could give us a bit of an idea of what is ahead for Canada.
Looking at Spain in particular, which, of the four countries, is the closest to Canada’s total population (37.6 million) with 46.6 million people, finds that a significant increase in coronavirus cases came in the days following March 8 — jumping from 674 cases to nearly 8,000 throughout the following week.
Canada, which has seen 648 cases as of March 18 according to Worldometers, has been taking drastic measures to curb the spread of the virus, including shutting its border with the United States, encouraging residents to remain in their homes whenever possible, and seeing states of public health emergency called in a number of provinces.
The week following Iran’s 600th case was less severe than in Spain, going from 593 on February 29 to 5,823 seven days later.
China saw the worst jump, from 830 cases to 9,692 in one week, while Italy actually saw the least severe spike, going from 677 on February 27 up to 3,858 by March 5.
Two weeks following Canada’s current timeline saw Iran at 11,364, Italy at 15,113, and China at 31,161.
Spain has not yet reached two weeks since seeing their 600th case, though they’ve now seen 11,826 cases as of March 17 — just nine days after they broke 600 on March 8.
Given that the incubation period for coronavirus is anywhere from one to 14 days, according to the World Health Organization, some of the 1,884 new cases seen in Spain on March 17 could have been infected by those carrying the virus without knowing it as early as March 3.
At that time, the country had only seen 53 confirmed cases, though most of Spain’s new cases were likely spread around a week or so ago — which, on Canada’s delayed timeline, would be the equivalent of the next few days for us.
Not all countries have seen such a drastic spike in cases as these four, however, as Japan has seen an increase of just 214 cases since they broke 600 one week ago.
South Korea jumped from 602 cases to 3,736 cases between February 23 and March 1, though it has seen a significant decrease in daily cases in the days since, with only 84 new cases detected on March 17.
And as for when this all might finally come to an end, the best signifier would be China itself, as it has been facing the pandemic longer than anywhere else.
The country has seen a total of 80,894 cases and 3,237 deaths, according to Worldometers. However, it now only has 8,043 active cases, as nearly 70,000 people have recovered from the virus, and new cases have dropped down to well under 100 a day.
The first day that China started to see fewer infected people than the day before was February 18 — 27 days after they hit 600 cases on January 23.
The country saw a significant decrease in the number of new cases around the middle of February, marking roughly one month after China implemented strict measures that included quarantining Wuhan, shutting down rail lines, and erecting roadblocks.
Canada and China’s populations, government responses, geography, and infection rates are quite different, but given that China is the only large country that has begun to see a decrease in the number of infected cases, it is the only basis we can currently use to predict when Canada may begin to recover.
That 27 days after seeing a 600th case would, hypothetically, find Canada beginning to see a decrease in the number of infected people by Tuesday, April 14.
While there is nothing “lucky” about the current state of the world, Canada is fortunate to have been hit by the virus weeks later than some other countries — giving us time to see the severity of the situation and act accordingly.
Canada may not yet be on full lock-down, but the next few days will be among the most critical for curbing the spread of coronavirus throughout the country. The only better time to act would have been during the days we’ve already lost.
So stay home, self-isolate, wash your hands, and know that the sacrifices you make today do have an impact on whether or not Canada will see cases in the thousands, or tens of thousands, in the weeks to come.
With coronavirus on the rise, Health Canada is reminding individuals who attend events and large gatherings to monitor their health for signs and symptoms of COVID-19. And if you’re not feeling well, they recommend staying home at this time. Also, due to unexpected cancellations, please check the event you plan to attend is still taking place. Keep up with COVID-19 news here.