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COVID-19 modelling: Canada could see up to 30,000 cases a day as Ontario, Quebec fuel surge after holidays

Elisabetta Bianchini
·4 min read
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For more on today’s top stories and the spread of the novel coronavirus across the country, please refer to our live updates below throughout the day, as well as our COVID-19 news hub.

Short-term forecast for COVID-19 growth in Canada (Public Health Agency of Canada)
Short-term forecast for COVID-19 growth in Canada (Public Health Agency of Canada)

Modelling information released by the federal government shows that by Jan. 24, Canada is predicted to see between 752,400 and 796,630 cumulative cases of COVID-19. By the same date, the country is expected to report up to 19,630 deaths in total.

Dr. Theresa Tam, Canada’s chief public health officer, identified that the daily case counts in the country “far exceeds” the peak of the first wave of the pandemic last year.

“I think our projections were going the right direction ahead of Christmas,” Dr. Tam said. “But now, after the holiday period, we’re seeing the surge, the projections are going up again.”

“The next months will be hard as we work together to bring COVID activity under control to a level to that will enable public to test, trace and isolate quickly and effectively. Our healthcare system is currently stretched and health workers are exhausted, so they need our support.”

Long-range forecasting of COVID-19 pandemic in Canada (Public Health Agency of Canada)
Long-range forecasting of COVID-19 pandemic in Canada (Public Health Agency of Canada)

By the end of January, Canada is expected to see more than 10,000 reported cases per day, increasing above 30,000 if measures are not put in place to slow the growth trajectory.

“Bending the curve of this resurgence...requires urgent, consistent, strong and combined efforts of Canadians and local authorities,” Dr. Tam said. “For all of us, that means we must maintain physical distancing, reduce contacts outside of our household to just essential activities, continue with good hand washing practices and wear a face mask to protect ourselves and others.”

“For local authorities, particularly where the virus is surging, this mean that immediate implementation of strong restrictions, closure and control measures is required to achieve the reduction in contact necessary.

Dr. Tam added that public health measures cannot be reduced too soon, but rather need to be sustained long enough to “sufficiently suppress epidemic growth” to achieve “lasting control.”

Canada’s chief public health officer stressed that non-essential travel outside of Canada, or even domestically, needs to be avoided and travellers coming into the country need to quarantine for 14 days.

Regional increases in COVID-19 cases in Canada (Public Health Agency of Canada)
Regional increases in COVID-19 cases in Canada (Public Health Agency of Canada)

While COVID-19 cases remain high in Quebec and Ontario in particular, the number of health regions reporting over 100 cases per 100,000 population increase from 49 in previous modelling data to 59, as COVID-19 continues to spread.

COVID-19 cases in Canada (Public Health Agency of Canada)
COVID-19 cases in Canada (Public Health Agency of Canada)

As COVID-19 vaccines are being administered across Canada, Dr. Tam warns that vaccines alone are not enough to protect against this virus.

“If your community transmission is still high, vaccines alone is not going to make a dent,” she said.

COVID-19 deaths in Canada (Public Health Agency of Canada)
COVID-19 deaths in Canada (Public Health Agency of Canada)

Deaths due to COVID-19 continue to rise in Canada. Those 80 years-old and older account for 71 per cent of all deaths, individuals between the ages of 60 and 79 account for 26 per cent of deaths.

Long-term care COVID-19 outbreaks (Public Health Agency of Canada)
Long-term care COVID-19 outbreaks (Public Health Agency of Canada)

Many of the deaths in Canada are linked to outbreaks in long-term care homes, which continue into increase in this second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic.

COVID-19 hospitalizations in Canada (Public Health Agency of Canada)
COVID-19 hospitalizations in Canada (Public Health Agency of Canada)

Dr. Tam identified that hospitalizations have been “steadily increasing” since late October 2020. Over the past week, an average of over 4,700 people with COVID-19 were being treated in Canadians hospitals on any given day. The average length of stay is about 16 days or 20 days for those with more severe illness.

“Increasing demand on the healthcare system is straining capacity and leaving the health workforce exhausted in many areas o f the country,” Dr. Tam said. “If the growth in cases continues at the current rate in heavily impacted areas, the ability to continue with the present level of elected procedures will become increasingly difficult.”

Check out our COVID-19 in Canada topic page for latest news, tips, health updates, cases and more.