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Sobering projections show up to 22,000 Canadians could die from COVID-19

Last Updated Apr 9, 2020 at 5:02 pm PDT


With strong control measures, Health Canada projects 11,000 to 22,000 Canadians could die in coming months from COVID-19

Canada's PHO says modelling isn't necessarily what will happen

Dr. Theresa Tam says the future depends on how Canadians behave to keep the illness from spreading

OTTAWA – The federal government has released sobering numbers about the best- and worst-case scenarios projected for the COVID-19 pandemic.

The grim data suggests in the best case scenario, if Canada keeps strong controls in place or strengthens them, 2.5 to five per cent of the population will become infected, which is roughly 934,000 to nearly 1.9-million people.

That could lead to between 11,000 and 22,000 deaths.

However, if we let our foot off the gas and weaken control measures, 25 to 50 per cent of the population could become infected and deaths could range between 100,000 to 250,000, Canada’s Public Health Agency said Thursday.

Meanwhile, if there are no controls — which is not the case — federal projections show 80 of the population could be infected, resulting in up to 350,000 deaths.

Public Health Officer Dr. Theresa Tam said Canada needs to keep strong measures in place to beat this pandemic, and added every Canadian has a part to play in this effort.

She said, plainly, we are the authors of our own fate.

“If we let up, new chains of transmission will take off in our highly-susceptible population, and the epidemic will reignite,” she said. “If we are to not lose our hard-won progress, we must stay the course until we have reached a very low number of cases at the bottom of that first wave.”

In terms of a timeline, Dr. Tam said if we keep strong control measures in place, the pandemic could peak in early summer and dwindle by the fall.

However, weaker controls could push this pandemic into the spring of next year.

“If our best efforts are successful, then possibly — hopefully — the first wave will end by the summer,” Dr. Howard Njoo, Canada’s deputy chief public health officer, reiterated. “But it’s not over.”

The Public Health Agency of Canada said earlier in the day that short-term estimates are more reliable, and it anticipates 500 to 700 deaths nationally by the end of next week. It added the COVID-19 battle in Canada is still in its early stages, but that the country’s numbers of confirmed cases have been increasing more slowly than in other countries.

-With files from The Canadian Press