Canada’s top health officials are forecasting total COVID-19 cases to rise up to 66,835 by May 5.
On Tuesday afternoon, the federal government released projections of the coronavirus through modelling that shows where we might be heading over the next week.
The presentation noted that Canada is doing somewhat better than other comparable countries where epidemics began earlier, with growth slowing to a doubling in cases every 16 days.
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In their short-term forecasting, health officials say Canada may see total deaths rise by 700 to 1,400, and cases could rise from 47,327 to between 53,196 and 66,835 by May 5.
Longer term modelling, covering the course of the pandemic, shows up to 44,000 deaths with strong epidemic control. That number goes as high as 355,000 with no epidemic measures in place.
Dr. Theresa Tam said that models are imperfect, and are highly sensitive to our actions, but they do allow us to forecast short-term possibilities.
Health officials said that the impact of the virus is local, as case rates vary across the country. A collective 80% of the countries cases are in Ontario and Quebec, while BC and Alberta account for 14%.
Federal health officials are using forecasting and dynamic models for their projections.
Forecasting uses the actual cases and data from Canada to estimate how many cases the country may expect. It’s used for short-term projections.
Dynamic modelling is for longer term projections and uses knowledge of how the virus behaves, and helping look at different scenarios and impact over time.
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As for when restrictions might lessen and the economy might reopen, Dr. Tam toned that Canadians will need to remain vigilant even on the other side of the country’s peak.
“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,” she said during the presentation.
“By achieving epidemic control, we expect that only a small proportion of the population will be immune, 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 growth of future epidemic waves.”
The hope is to see each person with coronavirus infect fewer than one person on average, which will result in the epidemic dying out.
Canada is currently seeing those who carry the virus infecting an average of just above one other person.
“We are making clear progress to slow the spread and bring the epidemic under control thanks to the commitment of Canadians who are following public health authority to protect themselves and others,” Dr. Tam stated.
“It is critically important that we maintain our public health measures, including physical distancing, until we have achieved epidemic control for the first wave. Relaxing controls too quickly will squander our collective efforts to date, and put us at risk of future epidemic waves.”