TORONTO — Thousands more people are expected to contract COVID-19 and hundreds will likely die in the coming week, according to government projections, despite the progress the country has made in fighting the pandemic.
Canada’s case rate is now doubling every 16 days rather than three to five days seen about three weeks ago, Dr. Theresa Tam, the country’s top public health officer, said on Thursday.
Outbreaks in long-term care and senior homes have been driving the epidemic and are responsible for the vast majority of deaths, Tam said. While adults over the age of 60 accounted for 95 per cent of the more than 2,700 deaths, Tam warned no one was immune.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau also warned caution remained the watchword when it comes to lifting restrictions that have devastated the economy.
“The measures we’ve taken so far are working. In many parts of the country, the curve has flattened,” Trudeau said at his daily briefing. “(But) if we lift measures too quickly, we might lose the progress we’ve made.”
As provinces release their outlines or plans for getting their people on the road to normalcy, the prime minister said the federal government would also be releasing its framework for easing up on the restrictions. However, he said it’s imperative to have a co-ordinated and consistent approach “grounded in shared understanding and appreciation” of the threats we face.
Getting the country moving, he said, won’t be an overnight process. Among other things, it will depend on capacity for testing and tracing coronavirus infections and ensuring that workers are safe on the job.
“Controlling transmission is key,” he said. “Restarting our economy will be gradual and careful and will be guided by science.”
Canada is closing in on 50,000 known cases — Quebec and Ontario have accounted for 80 per cent of all confirmed cases. More than 2,700 have been fatal.
Ontario, in its latest report, snapped a three-day string of declining new cases as another 59 more people died. The province is now approaching 1,000 deaths.
Quebec, which has been hit hardest by the epidemic, has set May 11 for reopening schools and daycares, although attendance would be voluntary. High schools, junior colleges and universities are to remain closed until September. Ontario has drawn up a gradual reopening framework but has given no dates or schedule, other than that schools will stay closed until at least the end of May.
While work continues in Canada and around the world on finding a COVID-19 vaccine, a new Leger poll for the Association for Canadian Studies finds 60 per cent of Canadians believe inoculation once available should be mandatory, while the rest think it should be voluntary.
Trudeau said it was far too early to discuss the issue of whether everyone should have to get a shot.
“We are still unfortunately a long way from having a vaccine,” Trudeau said. “As far as the protocols are concerned, we still have a fair bit of time to reflect on that.”
As COVID-19 continues to spread in the country’s prisons, more than three dozen organizations demanded an immediate inquest into the April 15th death of a B.C. inmate due to the disease. The unnamed man died at Mission Institution east of Vancouver, where more than 100 inmates have tested positive. At least 249 federal inmates are known to be infected.