OTTAWA, Jan. 15 (Xinhua) -- Canada is to see up to 796,630 COVID-19 cases and 19,630 deaths by Jan. 24, as the coronavirus continues to surge rapidly across the country, according to the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) on Friday.
In its update report on COVID-19 in Canada: Epidemiology and Modelling, the PHAC said the number of daily COVID-19 cases could more than triple to 30,000 if people increase their contacts during a time of widespread community transmission.
The report also projects that if Canadians simply maintain their current levels of contact with people outside their households, case counts will still rise to roughly 13,000 a day from 7,900 now.
Unless the extent and severity of COVID-19 restrictions are further intensified, Canada will not be able to suppress the current rate of spread, said Chief Public Health Officer Theresa Tam in Ottawa on Friday.
"We have yet to see the kind of widespread and sustained declines in daily case counts that would indicate we're bringing the pandemic under control nationally," Tam said.
"We need to keep reducing in-person contacts. For the moment that's the only way to get these numbers down," said Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau at a press conference in Ottawa on Friday. "We've seen the kinds of impossible choices hospitals in other countries had to face when they become overwhelmed. Deciding who gets an ICU bed and who doesn't, well that's not where we want to be."
Across the country, there has been a steady increase in hospitalizations in provinces with high infection rates since last October, with an average of more than 4,700 people being treated in hospital on any given day, with 875 in ICUs.
Once hospitalized with COVID-19, patients tend to stay around 16 days, though it's often longer for those with severe illness. This has strained the capacity of Canada's health-care system, and has exhausted health-care workers, Tam said.
COVID-19 deaths are also steadily rising and the daily death totals may soon exceed the levels seen during the first peak of the virus last spring. The daily case counts have already far exceeded the peak of the first wave.
The coronavirus's spread is still on this rapid growth path as new cases rose again after the holidays likely due to people having more contacts around Christmas and other celebrations, but also likely because people held off from getting tested until in the new year.
While the ongoing COVID-19 vaccine rollout has started in the country, Tam said it will still be months before most Canadians get access to vaccine shots and it's essential that the health-care system has the capacity to administer them on a mass scale when the time comes.
As of Friday afternoon, Canada has reported a total of 694,026 COVID-19 cases and 17,703 deaths, according to CTV.
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