With strong measures, Canada could see up to 11,000 – 22,000 COVID-19 deaths say officials

According to the forecasting models by federal public health officials on Thursday in Ottawa, by the end of the COVID-19 pandemic there could be up to 11,000 – 22,000 deaths due to the coronavirus. While the numbers are frighteningly high, these are the best-case scenario numbers with strongest control measures in place. 

It was also mentioned that if measures such as physical distancing were weak, the total deaths due to COVID-19 related complications could spike up to 100,000. 

Current data suggests that Canada could reach 22,500 to 31,800 COVID-19 cases with 500 to 700 potential deaths by April 16, exactly a week from today. 

Federal Public Health Officials emphasized that these projections are only estimates based upon the data that is available so far, and that data can and does change regularly over time. 

“Data and models can help Canadians see how our collective efforts…can determine the trajectory of Canada’s COVID-19 pandemic,” said Chief Public Health Officer of Canada, Dr Theresa Lam. 

Three possible scenarios were developed from the best data available: one with strong control measures (for example higher rates of social distancing and COVID-19 testing), one with weaker response measures and one with no measures taken.

Scenario One: Strong Response Control Measures

Dr Theresa Tam said that Canada’s objective is to be in scenario one where strong control measures are taken. 

In this model, it was estimated that: 

  • If 2.5 percent of the population is infected by the coronavirus up to 11,000 potential deaths would occur
  • If 5 percent of the population is infected, up to 22,000 potential deaths would occur

In this scenario it was estimated that between 934,000 to 1,879,000 cases of COVID-19 would occur across the country should 2.5 to 5 percent of the population were to be infected by COVID-19.

Additionally, this model suggests that it is possible that Canada could see the peak in number of cases in the coming months and could possibly subside into the fall. However, this is only possible if Canadians continue to follow the strong measures implemented by the government 

Scenario Two: Weak Response Control Measures

Under weaker control measures, such as lower rates of social distancing and lowered rates of COVID-19 testing, infection rates can climb up to 25 to 50 per cent of the population. If this were to occur, upwards of 100,000 to 250,000 COVID-19 deaths. 

The model with weaker response models forecasts that the peak in the number of cases will not occur until the fall with infections slowing down by the winter and spring into 2021. 

What can Canadians learn from these Forecasted Models

The lesson learnt from these models is best summarized by Canada’s Chief Public Health Officer, Dr Theresa Tam: “These stark numbers tell us we must do everything in our power to stay in the control model…We cannot prevent every death, but we must prevent every death that we can.”

When asked about how long restrictive measures could be in place, Deputy Chief Public Health Officer, Dr Howard Njoo said that smaller waves of outbreaks are expected and thus “it’s difficult to say nationally that at such-and-such date, we’ll be able to set aside measures”.

Both Dr Howard Njoo and Dr Theresa Tam noted that it is crucial for Canadians to continue to practice physical distancing and for Canada to not loosen up any measures in place so far if the country wants to continue to control the spread of COVID-19. 

“It is a matter of life and death,” said Dr Theresa Tam. “When I say we are the authors of our fate, this is something that’s really serious”. 

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