Canada could see 20,000 COVID-19 cases per day by end of year: PHAC

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Canada could see 20,000 COVID-19 cases per day by end of year: PHAC
Canada could see 20,000 COVID-19 cases per day by end of year: PHAC

New infections of COVID-19 could reach 60,000 a day by the end of December if Canadians increase their current level of contact with other people, according to modelling charts prepared by the the Public Health Agency of Canada and seen by CBC News.

According to the new modelling — which is to be released tomorrow — that number could be limited to 20,000 a day if Canadians maintain their current number of personal contacts.

But to drive that number under 10,000 cases a day by the end of the year, Canadians would need to limit their interactions to essential activities while maintaining physical distancing and adhering to other public health guidelines.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and opposition leaders met with Canada's Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Theresa Tam and her deputy Dr. Howard Njoo earlier this evening to discuss the new modelling.

Tam will hold a news conference at 9 a.m. ET Friday to formally offer detailed projections on potential infections and deaths from the novel coronavirus.

Trudeau will also address Canadians Friday about the worsening situation from outside Rideau Cottage, returning to the doorstop press conferences that characterized the early days of the pandemic.

The modelling predicts that the number of COVID-19 deaths could rise from the current level of just over 11,100 to just more than 12,100 by the end of the month if Canadians maintain their current level of contact with other people.

The modelling says that there are more outbreaks now, those outbreaks are larger — more than 50 cases each — and they are affecting long-term care homes.

It also says that Indigenous communities and schools are also seeing rising caseloads and that the situation is set to get worse in all regions except the Atlantic provinces and parts of the North unless action is taken.

O'Toole blames Liberal response

After the meeting, Conservative Leader Erin O'Toole released a statement criticizing the Liberal government's response to the pandemic.

"What struck me was that 11 months after news about the spread of COVID-19 emerged, after thousands of lives and millions of jobs have been lost, and hundreds of billions of dollars has been added to the national debt, we as a country are worse off than we were at the start of the pandemic," he said.

"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 that affect lives and jobs."

O'Toole said the government must deliver a plan to test, trace and isolate those who are infected, because shutting down the economy is "simply not a solution."

Public health orders

The national snapshot comes as Manitoba, now dealing with the highest per capita daily COVID-19 case numbers among Canadian provinces, is set to enact new orders effective Friday to limit the spread of the virus.

WATCH | Canada's COVID-19 cases could dramatically rise by year's end:

The public health orders will forbid people from having anyone inside their home who doesn't live there, with limited exceptions, and prohibit businesses from selling non-essential items in stores. Large retailers are to restrict capacity at any given time to 25 per cent of their normal limit or a maximum of 250 people, whichever is lower.

British Columbia also announced new rules to curb the pandemic today, including mandatory mask rules for indoor public and retail spaces and restrictions on social gatherings to household members only. Indoor group fitness activities such as hot yoga and spin classes also have been suspended.

Ontario Premier Doug Ford warned Thursday that additional public health restrictions would be announced Friday for hot spots in the province.

"These measures will have to be tough in the hardest hit areas," he said. "We have some difficult but necessary decisions to make."

Green Party Leader Annamie Paul said the meeting only confirmed in her mind that a national co-ordinated effort is required to get case numbers under control.

"It was very sobering," she told CBC's Power & Politics. "We need to take immediate action. We need to take radical action or we are going to see many more cases and many more deaths."

NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh said that, in the face of spiking numbers, the federal government needs to act now to ensure seniors are protected by eliminating for-profit long-term care homes.

"It just confirmed what we have been seeing across the country," Singh told host Vassy Kapelos. "The numbers are really troubling. I am deeply worried about people if we don't act now we could lose many more lives."