Ontario projects sharp rise in COVID-19 cases as Canada buys more vaccines

Ontario projects sharp rise in COVID-19 cases as Canada buys more vaccines

FILE PHOTO: Canada's Prime Minister Justin Trudeau attends a news conference in Ottawa
Canada's Prime Minister Justin Trudeau attends a news conference, as efforts continue to help slow the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, Dec 7, 2020. (Photo: REUTERS/Blair Gable))

TORONTO: Ontario is on track to have more than 20,000 new COVID-19 cases per day by the middle of February, a nearly ten-fold increase from the current count, according to a data model released on Tuesday by the government of Canada's most populous province.

Ontario, which is battling a coronavirus surge that has swamped its hospitals and triggered a province-wide lockdown, could also see roughly 1,500 more deaths in its long-term care homes through mid-February under a worst-case scenario, according to the data model.

To battle the coronavirus surge in Ontario and elsewhere in the country, Canada's federal government ordered an additional 20 million doses of Pfizer's coronavirus vaccine, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau told reporters on Tuesday. That would take the total number of doses to be delivered this year in Canada to 80 million.

Ontario, the country's economic engine, has been under lockdown since Dec 26, with non-essential businesses shuttered and schools closed for in-person learning.

Yet the daily number of COVID-19 cases has spiked above 3,500 on average over the past seven days, government data showed.

Under the worst-case scenario with 7 per cent case growth, there would be 40,000 new cases daily by mid-February, while the best-case scenario with 1 per cent growth would result in 5,000 new cases every day, Ontario's data showed. Case growth has recently been over 7 per cent on the worst days, the data showed.

"We will have to confront choices that no doctor ever wants to make and no family ever wants to hear," Dr. Steini Brown, head of Ontario's case modelling, said at a briefing on Tuesday. "People will die from the virus itself and from the overloaded health system that is unable to respond to their needs."

Brown warned that the new COVID-19 variant from Britain was already in Ontario and could decrease the doubling time of cases - or how long it takes for case counts to double, currently 30 to 40 days - to 10 days.

Ontario Premier Doug Ford is widely expected to announce new measures to try to curb infections Tuesday afternoon. Ontario reported 2,903 new COVID-19 cases on Tuesday, according to government data.

The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation reported on Monday that the new measures Ford is expected to announce could include cutting hours for essential businesses, curtailing construction activity and reducing gathering limits to five people, down from the current limit of 10 outdoors. But the province is unlikely to impose a curfew, CBC reported.

Last week Quebec, Canada's worst-affected province from COVID-19, became the first in the country to introduce a curfew to limit the spread. 

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Source: Reuters

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