Canada at ‘crossroads’ as COVID-19 cases surge
By Steve Scherer
OTTAWA (Reuters) – COVID-19 infections have surged in Canada and if people do not take stringent precautions, they could balloon to exceed levels seen during the first wave of the pandemic, health officials warned on Monday.
“Canada is at a crossroads and individual action to reduce contact rates will decide our path,” the Public Health Agency said in a statement.
According to a worst-case scenario outlined by the agency, cases could rise more than 1,000 per day to 155,795 by Oct. 2, with the death toll hitting 9,300. On Monday, Canada had reported 145,415 total cases and 9,228 deaths.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau will appear in a rare evening national broadcast at 6:30 p.m. (2230 GMT) on Wednesday to talk about “the urgency of fighting COVID-19 as we face down the prospect of a second wave of the virus,” the prime minister’s office said.
Canada’s chief public health officer, Dr. Theresa Tam, outlined three scenarios for the spread of the new coronavirus between now and January 2022, with the most favorable being a slight uptick now and then a “slow burn” through next year.
That result requires active case detection and tracing, plus individuals taking the necessary health precautions. However, if action is not taken, the outcome could be disastrous, Tam said.
“With minimum controls, the virus is capable of surging into a very sharp and intense peak … (that) could overwhelm our health system capacity and significantly impact our social and economic systems as well,” she said.
Even with enhanced detection and tracing, people must take precautions or else cases could “far” exceed the spring peak, Tam said.
Tam’s are the latest in a series of warnings from health officials across Canada that the spread of the disease is gaining momentum.
Tam said this surge is different from the first because young people are behind the spread, but she cautioned that eventually “that is going to spill over into high-risk populations”.
Procurement Minister Anita Anand also announced new agreements in obtaining eventual coronavirus vaccines for Canada, and a first purchase of 150,000 vials of remdesivir, an anti-viral medication produced by Gilead Sciences Inc.
Anand said Canada had signed a deal with Sanofi and GSK for up to 72 million doses of their potential adjuvanted COVID-19 vaccine, and had increased by up to 14 million doses a previous agreement for the Moderna vaccine candidate.
Separately, Doug Ford, premier of Canada’s largest province Ontario, said he would begin implementing a six-point plan “to tackle a potentially more challenging second wave of COVID-19.”
The first step is what Ford called the “largest flu immunization campaign” in Ontario’s history. The province invested C$70 million ($52.6 million) in 5.1 million flu vaccines, 700,000 more than last year.
Getting a flu shot will help “take the load and the burden off the backs of the hospitals and doctor’s offices” during a surge in the coronavirus, Ford said.
($1 = 1.3307 Canadian dollars)
(Reporting by Steve Scherer, additional reporting by David Ljunggren; Editing by Steve Orlofsky and David Gregorio)