Worst is yet to come: Trudeau, opposition declare truce to see latest COVID projections

The modelling is expected to show that if Canadians continue their level of personal contact the number of cases could rise to 20,000 a day by the end of December

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OTTAWA – How bad is the pandemic?

It’s serious enough that the government and opposition parties declared a temporary ceasefire in parliamentary hostilities to review the latest COVID models.

Justin Trudeau and the leaders of the opposition parties received a technical briefing from Dr. Theresa Tam, the country’s chief medical officer, on the latest modelling data late Thursday.

Tam is expected to unveil new projections on Friday confirming what she warned about last week, that the country is on course to see 10,000 cases a day by early December – more than double the current case count.

But the modelling is expected to show that if Canadians continue their level of personal contact that number could rise to 20,000 a day by the end of December, according to the CBC.

If Canadians increase their contact level with people, Tam warns the number could rise to 60,000 a day, the CBC reported.

Even if a rate of 10,000 a day was sustained for a month, it would almost double the 311,109 cases of COVID-19 that Canada has seen to date. As of Thursday, there have been 11,186 deaths.

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When the government last released modelling in late October, the prediction was that Canada would see between 251,000 and 262,000 cases of the virus by Nov. 8, and estimated the country would have seen at most 10,400 deaths.

In the event, Canada saw 260,055 cases and 10,490 deaths by Nov. 8.

This is the first time since COVID hit that opposition leaders have been invited to see the data ahead of its release.

The expectation from the opposition side ahead of the meeting was that the prime minister’s presence suggested he wants their support for new restrictions. However, after the meeting, sources said the data was similar to Tam’s numbers from last week, except with a higher hospitalization rate, and no new restrictions were proposed.

A government official said the continued spike in cases through the second wave means there is a continued need for all politicians to emphasize the importance of public health measures. “Given the surge in cases, it’s important politics doesn’t come before protecting Canadians,” he said.

Conservative leader Erin O’Toole put out a statement after the meeting putting the blame squarely on the Liberals for the pandemic.

“We are in this position because the government failed to give Canadians the ability to rapidly and frequently test for COVID-19; has failed to tell Canadians how they plan to deliver a vaccine, and failed to be transparent with Canadians about what COVID-19 related information they are using to make decisions.”

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Trudeau is expected to hold his press conference Friday from Rideau Cottage, much as he did during the early days of the pandemic, emphasizing the need for people to take the crisis seriously.

Tam’s daily update on Thursday said “more and larger” outbreaks are occurring in long term care homes and hospitals.

She said she is “deeply concerned” that health services are being stretched too thin. An average of 1,789 people with COVID were treated every day in hospitals in the past week, with 360 people in intensive care units. There was an average of 72 deaths in the past seven days. Tam said the situation is putting pressure on local healthcare resources and forcing hospitals to cancel elective surgeries.

Ottawa’s medical health officer, Dr. Vera Etches, told the CBC that the mortality impact of COVID extends beyond those who die after having been diagnosed with the virus. Others die because their ailments are diagnosed later than they might have been or because they cannot? access life-saving surgery, she said.

Trudeau was asked at a press conference whether the federal government is considering a pan-Canadian non-essential travel ban in response to the spike in cases, as B.C. premier John Horgan suggested earlier in the week.

The prime minister said he agreed with Horgan that governments “need to do more”. But he said it is not the role of the federal government “to impose or determine what local measures need to be taken”. Sources said not to expect new federal restrictions.

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However, the government is clearly worried that the spike in numbers that followed Canadian Thanksgiving will be repeated at Christmas.

It’s important politics doesn’t come before protecting Canadians

Tam said that provinces and territories continue to highlight that family and holiday celebrations are “an important driver of spread”.
Two weeks after Thanksgiving on October 12 – the typical incubation period – Canada saw a significant increase in transmission within households.

Quebec Premier Fran?ois Legault proposed a “moral contract” with his citizens for the holiday season.

He said Quebecers could gather in groups of less than 10 between Dec 24 and Dec. 27, but he asked them to take precautions including a quarantine.

“We ask people to limit their contacts as much as possible, a week before and a week after. That way when we see our friends and family we will limit the risk of contagion.”

He announced schools in the province would transition students to online learning a few days before the planned start of the Christmas break and high school students would come back later into January.

Legault also extended business closures and restrictions in the hardest hit areas of the province into January 11.

B.C. Thursday night also made it mandatory to wear masks in public spaces while social interactions will be under new restrictions until Dec. 7 because of a surge in COVID-19 cases.

Manitoba, where the per capita infection rate is nearly four times the national average, said that effective Friday it will restrict socializing indoors to immediate household members, with the exception of child care and health providers. Over the past five days in Manitoba, 14 per cent of COVID-19 tests have come back positive.

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Ontario Premier Doug Ford has hinted at “tough” new measures and is expected to impose new restrictions in hard-hit Toronto and Peel Region on Friday.

“We’re seeing concerning trends. Our hospital ICUs are in jeopardy. Our long-term care homes are at risk. We have some difficult but necessary decisions to make,” he said. There are 150 COVID patients in intensive care, the threshold at which the Ontario government’s medical advisers have said hospitals may need to cancel surgeries.

With files from The Canadian Press

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