Until now, the Trudeau government has been reluctant to release federal Covid-19 projections. That changed on Thursday as we learned federal modelling projects 700 deaths from the virus by April 16th, with up to 22,000 deaths over the coming months. Those number are based on strict controls and an infection rate of 2.5 to 5 per cent.
Chief Public Health Officer of Canada, Dr. Theresa Tam says while models are imperfect and ‘not a crystal ball,’ they are highly effective in determining the trajectory of Canada’s Covid-19 pandemic.
Stronger controls up to 50k deaths
Weaker controls up to 200k deaths
No controls over 300k deaths
Stronger controls 1-10% infection rate
Weaker controls 25-50% infection rate
No controls 70-80% infection rate
Dr. Tam says their forecasting model, based on reporting data in Canada, shows between 22,580 to 31,850 cases of the virus by April 16th, with 500 to 700 potential deaths by the same time.
The modelling suggests the most severe outcome, even with strong control measures in place, would be around 11,000 deaths if 2.5 per cent of the population is infected. That increases to 22,000 deaths with an infection rate of 5 per cent. Those deaths could spike to around 300k under no controls.
Dr. Tam says with ‘stronger controls,’ the curve could flatten by the end of summer, but with ‘weaker controls,’ their modelling shows the curve wouldn’t flatten until Spring of 2021.
“Public health measures are aimed at helping to break chains of transmission to the point where each infected individual is transmitting to less than one person, this is essential,” said Tam.
Forecasting the short term epidemic trajectory
Speaking during his daily media briefing, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Canada is at a fork in the road between the best and the worst outcome. “The models show that Covid-19 arrived later in Canada than in other countries and the path that will take us to a better result will not be easy.”
Trudeau says physical distancing measures will be in place for “months” in order to limit the number of deaths in this pandemic. The Prime Minister says they will continue to improve testing protocols and continue to develop tools for better contact tracing.
Community transmission started later in Canada allowing us to act early
First wave expected to end this summer
Dr. Howard Njoo, Deputy Chief Public Health Officer says the total number of cases in Canada has increased slower than other countries. “It’s difficult to determine when the peak will occur, after the peak…. we can look and say ah, we have hit the peak… and are now on a downward trajectory.”
Dr. Njoo says they predict the first wave to end in the summer, but that doesn’t mean the pandemic is over. Dr. Njoo says Canada’s surveillance system and lab system will be key to governments relaxing physical distancing measures.
Looking at the composite curve, Dr. Tam says we are slowing our growth, moving towards the doubling of cases over 3-5 days. “Canada’s trajectory shows a slower growth than many countries and while the country is in an earlier stage than other nations, it has allowed us to learn from the experience of others – resulting in a slower infection rate in Canada, with higher per-capita testing.”
Trudeau says Canadians need to remain vigilant over the coming year, saying it may take a year, year and-a-half for life to return to normal. Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland says it’s not known exactly when all Canadians will be able to return to work. “It’s the government’s duty to support the economy for as long as necessary.”
Across Canada, 94 per cent of cases are concentrated in four provinces, Ontario, Quebec, BC and Alberta. Ontario forecasts 1,600 deaths in April and expect the pandemic to last 2 years with 15,000 deaths. This month alone health officials in the province expect 80,000 cases of COVID-19. It could have been much, much worse. Without public health measures, Ontario’s modelling projected 100,000 deaths.
Employment rate takes dramatic hike in March
Earlier Thursday job numbers were released showing 1.011 million Canadians lost their jobs in March, with the unemployment rate going from 2.2 to 7.8 per cent. More than 400,000 people in Ontario lost their jobs in March. “As stark as those number are, we all knew this was going to be a tough time and we’re doing our best to bridge you to better times. Things will get better and once they do, we will come roaring back,” said Trudeau.
Unemployment in Barrie jumped from 4.3% in Feb to 5.7% in March, which is a big jump in one month.Mayor Jeff Lehman expects the April report to show the real impact though.
Trudeau urges Parliament to meet to pass wage subsidy legislation
“It’s not a time to further delay.”
This weekend will be busy for the Prime Minister as his government pushes for the House of Commons to resume. “We need to move forward on getting this legislation passed so we can help even more Canadians and get that aid out to workers and businesses and that’s why we are in discussions with the opposition parties, but we must absolutely bring back the House of Commons to pass this bill.” Trudeau says they are considering a virtual parliament.
Wednesday, Trudeau discussed proposed changes to expand eligibility for the recently announced wage subsidy program. The changes are in respect to that 30 per cent revenue loss threshold businesses are requirement to show, which would exempt seasonal companies or new businesses.
Trudeau says the proposed tweaks allow businesses to show January and February of 2020 comparisons instead of the same month last year – as was first introduced. In addition to that, Trudeau says the federal government will now require firms to demonstrate only a 15 per cent reduction in gross revenues for March. A 30 per cent reduction will still be required to receive the subsidy in April and May.