Canada at 'crossroads' with COVID-19 case numbers rising


  • World
  • Wednesday, 23 Sep 2020

FILE PHOTO: People wait in line at the Women's College coronavirus disease (COVID-19) testing facility in Toronto, Ontario, Canada September 18, 2020. REUTERS/Carlos Osorio

OTTAWA (Reuters) - Canada is facing a surge in COVID-19 cases that risks ballooning to higher levels than were seen during the first wave of the pandemic in the spring if people do not take stringent precautions, health officials said on Monday.

"Canada is at a crossroads and individual action to reduce contact rates will decide our path," said a statement from the Public Health Agency.

According to a worst-case scenario outlined by the agency, cases could rise more than 1,000 per day for the next 10 days to 155,795 by Oct. 2, with the death toll hitting 9,300. On Monday, Canada had reported 145,415 total cases and 9,228 deaths.

Canada's chief public health officer, Theresa Tam, outlined three scenarios, with the most favorable being a "slow burn" that involves active case detection and tracing, and for individuals to take all the necessary precautions.

However, if action is not taken, the outcome could be disastrous, she said.

"With minimum controls, the virus is capable of surging into a very sharp and intense peak ... (that) could overwhelm our health system capacity and significantly impact our social and economic systems as well," she said.

Even with enhanced detection and tracing, if people do not take precautions health officials see cases "far exceeding the peak we reached in the spring," Tam said.

Tam's comments are the latest in a series of warnings from health officials across Canada about the potential spread of the disease. Authorities are particularly concerned about the rapid spread among young people.

Procurement Minister Anita Anand also announced new agreements in obtaining eventual coronavirus vaccines and a first purchase of remdesivir, an anti-viral medication produced by Gilead Sciences Inc.

Anand said Canada also announced a new agreement with Sanofi and GSK for up to 72 million doses of their potential COVID-19 vaccine, and increased by up to 14 million doses a previous agreement for the Moderna vaccine.

(Reporting by Steve Scherer, additional reporting by David Ljunggren; Editing by Steve Orlofsky)

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