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Canada not ready for virus modelling, yet: Trudeau

Last Updated Apr 2, 2020 at 11:09 am PST

FILE - Prime Minister Justin Trudeau addresses Canadians on the COVID-19 pandemic from Rideau Cottage in Ottawa on Friday, March 27, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick

Physical distancing, other health and safety measures are more important

Trudeau conceded the federal government will share its modelling

He plans to discuss data and modelling with premiers

OTTAWA (NEWS 1130) — Canada is not yet ready to release statistical models to help predict the impact of the coronavirus outbreak, as other countries have done, says the prime minister.

U.S. and New Zealand have already released such models, projecting how many people could die or end up hospitalized due to COVID-19.

However, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Thursday during his daily briefing, outside Rideau Cottage in Ottawa, that physical distancing and other health and safety measures already ordered are more important in slowing transmission of the disease than virus modelling.

However, Trudeau conceded the federal government will share its modelling. However, he added, the government needs to get the right data from the provinces first.

Trudeau said he plans to discuss data and modelling with premiers during a meeting in the afternoon.

It was pointed out him that New Zealand is projecting a 65 per cent infection rate for its population, as well as a one per cent fatality rate, including 20 per cent among the elderly.

“One of the things that we’ll be talking about with the premiers tonight,” said Trudeau, his voice hoarse, “is how to make sure that all our various sources of data are aligned so we can get more accurate models — how we make sure that the analysis that we apply to that data that’s coming in — that’s being published daily so Canadians can see it — actually makes sense and reflects what’s going to happen in Canada, what’s going to happen in various regions across the country, which will be different from what happens in other countries around the world, that is sophicticed modelling work that’s being worked on right now and is ongoing. We look forward to sharing more with Canadians in the coming days.”

Trudeau said the premiers will also talk about personal protective equipment for doctors, nurses and emergency crews.

In the U.S., White House officials are relying on statistical models to help predict the impact of the coronavirus outbreak.

High numbers of potential deaths estimated under different models have led President Donald Trump to drop talk of reopening the country by Easter and instead called on Americans to stay home for another month and avoid social contact.

Such models are a standard tool of epidemiology, the branch of medicine that deals with how diseases spread and how to control them. Results vary by what factors the modelers put in.
The models can feed in numbers from around the country on deaths and other data points. They use statistical analysis to predict the outbreak’s path, ferocity and ultimate impact as measured in people sickened, hospitals overwhelmed and lives lost.

Part of the idea is to try to drill down close to the community level, providing a tailored view, such as the age of a local population.

Other streams of data can help determine hospital capacity, or the ability of health departments to trace the contacts of people who test positive, the types of businesses in a community and whether they could ensure worker safety if they reopen and economic modeling under varying scenarios.