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Canada How Canada’s first long-term coronavirus pandemic projections hold up today

13:55  01 august  2020
13:55  01 august  2020 Source:   globalnews.ca

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The COVID-19 pandemic in Canada is part of the ongoing worldwide pandemic of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) caused by severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2).

The novel coronavirus was formally identified six months ago on 31 December. How could the global situation play out? While no one has a crystal ball, one expert has warned “At this point in time the pandemic is gathering pace,” Dr Michael Head from the University of Southampton told Yahoo UK.

This undated electron microscope image made available by the U.S. National Institutes of Health in February 2020 shows the virus that causes COVID-19. The sample was isolated from a patient in the U.S. THE CANADIAN PRESS/NIAID-RML via AP © THE CANADIAN PRESS/NIAID-RML via AP This undated electron microscope image made available by the U.S. National Institutes of Health in February 2020 shows the virus that causes COVID-19. The sample was isolated from a patient in the U.S. THE CANADIAN PRESS/NIAID-RML via AP

In early April, Canada's public health agency first released estimates of how widely the novel coronavirus might spread in the country and how many people might die as a result.

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[ Sign up for our Health IQ newsletter for the latest coronavirus updates ]. In P.E. I ., the pandemic has “devastated” the tourism industry, said provincial tourism minister Matthew MacKay. In the first couple of weeks of the pandemic and subsequent shutdown, as many as 6,000 people — in a town

Those projections, released on April 9, predicted that COVID-19 could take between 11,000 and 22,000 Canadian lives over the course of the pandemic, if strong public health controls were implemented. The agency also offered worse estimates for scenarios involving weaker epidemic controls, or none at all.

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Nearly four months later, the deaths of about 9,000 people have been linked to the virus in Canada — but the pandemic is far from over, according to the World Health Organization.

How did those initial forecasts influence Canadians' behaviour -- if at all -- and how do they hold up today? Here's what experts have to say.

How Canada responded

The April 9 estimates showed that weak to no controls during the pandemic could see anywhere from 25 per cent to 80 per cent of the population infected and between 100,000 and 350,000 deaths — a startling difference from the approximately 500 deaths reported at that time.

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"I think [the projections] did scare people, at least helped people understand the extent of what we were talking about," said Ashleigh Tuite, an infectious disease epidemiologist and mathematical modeler at the University of Toronto.

Nicholas King, an associate professor at McGill University who researches public health ethics and policy, said his impression is that the first modelling numbers likely served as a wake-up call for Canadians and decision-markers.

"I think it's likely that that helped convince policymakers of the necessity to act, and act earlier than a lot of other jurisdictions," King said.

Tuite argued that the lockdown and distancing measures that Canadians imposed and followed in the following months "did have a huge effect." She pointed to early results of an analysis of 10,000 blood donor samples that suggested less than one of per cent had been infected with the virus.

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The coronavirus pandemic , which was first detected in China, has infected people in 188 countries. Although it said that the coronavirus has plunged the world into a "crisis like no other", it does expect global growth to rise to 5.8% next year if the pandemic fades in the second half of 2020.

How do the first projections hold up?

Those early projections were based on the case data available in Canada at the time, as well as the knowledge experts had about how the virus behaves, Dr. Theresa Tam, the country's chief public health officer, said on April 9.

Four months into the pandemic, Tuite said those projections could still be "relevant" today. But she said the long-term estimates for deaths and cases might be "overly optimistic" if there are resurgences of the virus and continued outbreaks across the country.

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King agreed, arguing we're likely only in the middle of the pandemic right now.

"It may be that this turns into something that looks a lot more like influenza or some other viruses that become endemic and stay with us for a long time -- in which case, the projection of 11,000 to 22,000 (deaths) for the pandemic is likely to be an underestimate," he said.

"I think it's really hard to assess those things just because we have no idea what the end date for the pandemic is going to be."

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The Congressional Budget Office projected on Monday that the pandemic would inflict a devastating long - term blow on the United States economy, costing .9 trillion over the next decade. Without adjusting for inflation, the agency said, the pandemic would cost trillion over the next 10 years.

How Canada is responding to COVID-19. long - term and critical care settings. clinical management of patients. The COVID-19 pandemic is compounding the ongoing public health crisis related to high rates of opioid overdose and deaths, as well as acute substance use harms.

It could go the other way, however. How much more the total death count grows ultimately depends on the overall case count and what population gets infected, said Caroline Colijn, an infectious disease modeler and mathematics professor at Simon Fraser University.

"We might expect to see fewer deaths per number of reported cases if our cases are landing predominantly in younger people -- which is starting to happen because of more community wide-transmission -- as opposed to hospital or long-term care outbreaks where people are more vulnerable."

Read more: Ontario long-term care commission to deliver report by end of April

While nearly 200 COVID-19 deaths were linked to long-term care homes by April 9, Tuite says she doesn't believe the initial forecasts reflected the scale of the spread in seniors' home.

"I don't think the extent of it was known," she said. "I know that most of the models that were developed didn't incorporate the outbreaks in long-term care homes."

Will PHAC release updated long-term estimates?

Since early April, the Public Health Agency of Canada has released four sets of short-term projections for COVID-19 case numbers and deaths -- which for the most part, have proven to be accurate.

With a second wave of the virus expected this fall, Global News asked PHAC if it would release another set of long-term COVID-19 projections.

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"As we learn more about the virus, we update our models accordingly. A future presentation will be announced close to the date," a statement from the agency said.

Read more: Canada’s coronavirus curve seeing ‘uptick’ amid new outbreaks, Tam says

Experts say the pandemic's course rests largely on peoples' actions and behaviour. While those things are challenging to predict -- and the COVID-19 situation varies by province -- Coljin said she does think there's a case for having "a national-level picture and federal-level communication over what's going to be necessary."

She said officials can make national long-term forecasts "based on what behaviours and level of control we have now."

"Those forecasts are always kind of thought-experiments for what could happen and I think they can help guide us in making decisions on what to do," she said.


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Canada sees 343 new coronavirus cases as global infections top 18.4 million .
Provincial and territorial health authorities also confirmed another 11 people have died as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak. Read more: Canada sees 478 new coronavirus infections as world case count nears 17 million A number of the provinces reported several days worth of COVID-19 case data following the Civic Holiday long weekend. Health officials in Ontario said the province recorded 88 new cases of the virus on Monday and another 91 on Tuesday. Another four people have also died as a result of COVID-19 in Ontario, officials said. So far, the province has conducted more than 2.

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