Canada is slowing the spread of the novel coronavirus, though health officials are anticipating the number of cases and deaths to rise.
Health Canada’s latest short-term modelling shows that COVID-19 could cause 7,700 to 9,400 deaths by June 15. The number of cases could rise to between 97,990 and 107,454.
The agency notes that settings such as long-term care and seniors homes — which are linked to 82 per cent of all deaths in Canada — remain particularly vulnerable.
The report says that for almost two weeks, Canada’s time variable reproduction rate (Rt) has been below 1, meaning that on average, each infected person is spreading the virus to less than one other person.
An Rt of greater than one indicates that the pandemic is not under control.
But Canada’s chief public health officer is urging caution when it comes to lifting restrictions put in place to control the spread of COVID-19.
“If we relax too much or too soon, the epidemic will most likely rebound with explosive growth as a distinct possibility,” Dr. Theresa Tam said.
Health Canada said the country is experiencing a series of regional epidemics, with Ontario and Quebec accounting for 90 per cent of new cases in the last two weeks.
The report also said case counts are being driven by outbreaks in work camps, hospitals, shelters and correctional facilities.
Outbreaks at meat and poultry plants — including one at Cargill in Alberta last month — have accounted for more than 3,000 cases.
Dr. Howard Njoo, Canada’s deputy chief public health officer, said Canadians have worked hard to “flatten the curve” but public health measures such as physical distancing and handwashing need to be maintained this summer in order to prevent another spike in cases.
More than 93,000 Canadians have been diagnosed with COVID-19 as of Thursday. More than 7,600 Canadians have succumbed to the illness.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said the new data shows that Canada is making progress.
“That’s an encouraging sign that the virus is slowing and in some places even stopping,” he said in an address outside Rideau Cottage on Thursday.
“But I want to be very clear. We’re not out of the woods. The pandemic is still threatening the health and safety of Canadians.”