A little over two months ago, there was a titanic shift in Canada’s attitude toward COVID-19.
Almost overnight, what had been thought of as primarily a problem for other parts of the world was suddenly understood to be the greatest public health threat the country had seen in generations.
Many Canadians found themselves caught off-guard, surprised to find out that schools and workplaces were being shut down. Only in the following weeks, as new daily case counts climbed from a couple hundred to more than 1,000, did it become clear how high the toll would have been had life gone on as normal.
All of which raises an important question: Will it happen again? Will Canadians be lulled into complacency by declining numbers of new COVID-19 cases, only for another round of infections to lead to a large number of deaths that could have been prevented?
SECOND WAVE EXPECTED
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau acknowledged Thursday that his government expects a second wave of COVID-19 to sweep through the country at some point.
“One of the things we know is that in pandemics, there are usually second waves,” he said at his daily press briefing.
“The question that we’re very much focused on is that, as that second wave begins, or as we start to see resurgences in a reopened economy, how quickly are we able to contain them and control them?”
Medical experts are also increasingly of the view that a second wave of COVID-19 infections spreading across Canada is a question of when, not if.
“The second wave will come, but how acute it is or how large it rises so it doesn’t overwhelm our health-care system needs to be considered,” Dr. Sandy Buchman, the president of the Canadian Medical Association, told CTV News Channel on Thursday.
That was the thinking behind the lockdown-like measures imposed in March. By severely reducing the amount of contact most Canadians had with others, and therefore curtailing the ability of the novel coronavirus to spread widely, they hoped to limit the critically ill COVID-19 patient load to a number that could be cared for within the existing capacity of the health-care system.
It worked. Hospitals and intensive care units were not overloaded here to the extent they were in many other countries.
But now, as public-gathering limits are increased and other COVID-19-inspired restrictions are relaxed, experts are warning that there is not enough information available to prove that returning to some degree of normalcy is safe – or to alert us to the arrival of a second wave.
“We need to gather more information, we need to do adequate testing in our communities, we have to do more contact tracing, and ultimately we have to do serologic testing,” Buchman said.
TESTING AND TRACING
Buchman brought the same message to the Senate’s Standing Committee of Social Affairs, Science and Technology on Wednesday, saying that Canada is “not fully prepared for a second wave” and that provinces are “gambling by reopening” without having more testing and tracing programs in place.
“We have insufficient information as to what’s out there, and we can’t make really good, evidence-informed decisions about opening up,” he told senators.
Serologic testing, also known as antibody testing, measures antibodies that appear in the blood after an infection. It can be used to detect cases of COVID-19 after the fact, even in those who never displayed symptoms, painting a clear picture of how many people have developed immunity to the virus.
Contact tracing involves being able to quickly track down everyone who may have been exposed to a newly-diagnosed COVID-19 patient. Many countries have rolled out high-tech contact tracing systems that use smartphone GPS data to determine who was in contact with a new patient.
This has not happened in Canada, but federal officials have said they are looking at dozens of options. While the actual testing and tracing work will be carried out by provincial governments, Trudeau said Thursday that Ottawa is working to help the provinces in “massively scaling up” their capacity to do so.
The lack of a contact tracing system is only one problem, though. Dr. David Fisman, an epidemiologist at the University of Toronto, notes another: Canada still has too many new cases for combing through each patient’s history and alerting all their recent contacts to be a realistic goal.
“You can’t meaningfully do contact tracing at 300 new cases a day. You just don’t have the resources to do it,” he told CTV News Channel on Thursday.
“You can do it if you have five or 10 or 20 new cases a day.”
Asked if there will be a detectable early warning of a second wave of COVID-19 cases starting to spread through the country, Buchman suggested there is no clear answer at this point.
“That’s the essential question. We will know if we get more information,” he said.
While much of the public discussion has centred on the idea of a second wave hitting in the fall – when colder weather sends Canadians back indoors, where it is easy for the virus to spread – Fisman said it couldhappen anytime.
“People keep talking about a second wave coming in the fall. There’s no reason to expect the wave necessarily is going to come in the fall,” he said.
It is also possible that a second wave will be easier to notice and respond to in some parts of the country than in others.
“There’s reason to be concerned about the inability to really get this job done, especially in Ontario and Quebec,” Fisman said.
“The Atlantic provinces look really good. British Columbia’s shown a lot of competence, as have the Prairies. The COVID-19 pandemic story in Canada at this point is basically the story of Ontario and Quebec.”
Quebec, which has the highest COVID-19 case count and death total of any province, has started to reopen schools and businesses outside Montreal. Dr. Matthew Oughton, director of the infectious disease training program at McGill University Health Centre, told CTV News Channel on Thursday that the province “may have to go a step backwards” if the number of cases starts to shoot up.
“We have to identify all of the cases, and move quickly to put them in self-isolation,” he said.
“This is the reality of living in a pandemic. There is no perfect, risk-free solution.”
Indeed, while reopening society comes with consequences, so too does keeping it closed. Buchman said doctors are seeing patients stop seeking treatment for everything from cardiovascular disease to diabetes, while cancer screenings and child immunizations are being put off during the pandemic.
“These are really critical things,” he said.
“The public did so well by locking down, but we can’t just lock down anymore. We have to do this in a cautious, informed way.”
Coronavirus cases in Canada continue steady decline, death toll increases by 139 – Global News
New novel coronavirus cases in Canada have been dropping for the past several days, with Ontario and Quebec continuing to account for the vast majority of new cases and deaths.
Canada saw 637 new lab-confirmed cases of COVID-19 reported on Thursday, slightly lower than 705 a day earlier and 994 a week earlier, bringing the country’s caseload to more than 93,500 cases.
The national death toll rose by 139 deaths, for a total of more than 7,600.
New modelling data revealed Thursday that Canada could see up to 9,400 deaths by mid-June.
Quebec remains the hardest hit province, with 55 per cent of the country’s cases and more than 60 per cent of Canada’s fatalities. The province reported 259 new cases and 91 deaths on Thursday — a drop from last week’s numbers, which hovered in the 500 range.
More than 52,000 cases have been reported overall, with over 17,000 recoveries. Nearly 4,900 people have died.
Ontario reported 356 new cases and 45 new deaths, bringing its figures to nearly 29,500 cases and more than 2,300 deaths.
British Columbia saw no new deaths on Thursday and five new cases, as well as four “epidemiologically-linked” cases — people who are symptomatic or have had close contact with a COVID-19 case, but haven’t been tested.
Global News has only included the five lab-confirmed cases in its official tally.
Coronavirus: Team sports to gradually resume in Quebec
B.C. has seen more than 2,600 cases and 166 deaths, along with more than 2,200 recoveries. The number of people in hospital in the province has hit an 11-week low.
Alberta reported 15 new cases and one new death Thursday. More than 7,000 people have been diagnosed with COVID-19 and 146 people have died. More than 6,600 people are considered recovered so far.
Saskatchewan reported just one new case and saw its active COVID-19 cases drop below five per cent. The province has seen nearly 650 cases so far, including more than 600 recoveries and 11 deaths.
New Brunswick reported one new case as well as its first COVID-19-related death on Thursday.
Coronavirus: Toronto starts preparations for the return of patios
The province’s first death related to the coronavirus is linked to the ongoing outbreak in the Campbellton region — a cluster that has been traced back to a doctor who contracted the virus in Quebec and did not self-isolate upon his return.
The man who died was an 84-year-old resident of a long-term care home in Atholville, N.B.
Nova Scotia reported one new death, bringing its tally to 1,058 cases and 61 deaths, as its active case total continued to go down. The majority of its death toll is linked to one long-term care home in Halifax.
No new cases
Three provinces didn’t report any new cases or deaths on Thursday, while two territories that have seen all their COVID-19 cases resolved have not seen any new ones. Nunavut is the only region in Canada that has not reported a positive case.
Manitoba says it has seven active cases, out of a total of 287 lab-confirmed cases. That number includes seven deaths so far. The province says it has no COVID-19 hospitalizations at the moment.
Newfoundland and Labrador is left with two active cases out of 261 total cases, including three deaths.
Globally, the virus has caused more than 1.8 million cases and close to 389,000 deaths, according to data tracked by Johns Hopkins University.
© 2020 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.
State Department says U.S. will reassess intelligence-sharing with Canada if it lets Huawei into 5G – CBC.ca
The United States is prepared to reassess its intelligence-sharing arrangement with Canada if Huawei is given the green light to take part in building Canada’s 5G networks, a State Department spokesperson said today.
The federal government still has not announced its decision on whether the Chinese telecom giant will be allowed to participate in building Canada’s next-generation wireless networks, despite more than a year and a half of assessing the question.
“We in the U.S. government have made it very clear to all of our friends and allies around the world that if Huawei is allowed into a country’s national security systems, we will have to protect our intelligence-sharing relationship,” Morgan Ortagus, spokesperson for the U.S. State Department, told CBC News today.
“We’ll have to make an assessment if we can continue sharing intelligence with countries who have Huawei inside their most sensitive technology, in their most sensitive national security areas.
“We think that the Canadian government will make their own sovereign decisions and what’s best for Canada’s national security.”
Watch: Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Huawei and 5G
The prime minister didn’t say today when Canadians can expect a decision on Huawei and 5G, or whether he’s willing to risk injuring the relationship with Canada’s closest ally by allowing the Chinese telecom giant to participate in the networks.
“Every step of the way, we have listened to our security agencies, our intelligence agencies, worked with our allies,” Trudeau said in response to a reporter’s question today. “We will make the right decision for Canadians to both keep Canadians and businesses safe while at the same time ensuring competitiveness in our telecom industry.”
Some private companies aren’t waiting for Ottawa to make a decision. Bell and Telus announced yesterday that they would not be working with Huawei as they pursue their 5G plans. Instead, both are opting to use equipment from European companies Ericsson and Nokia.
Washington has long argued that Huawei poses a national security threat because the Chinese government has the power to compel private companies like Huawei to hand over sensitive information. Huawei’s critics say they fear the company would conduct espionage on behalf of Beijing.
U.S. tries to clip Huawei’s wings
Contacted by CBC News, Huawei’s VP for corporate affairs in Canada said State’s “threats” are consistent with “the Trump administration’s preference for bullying and coercing rivals and allies alike. “
“Huawei has operated in Canada for more than a decade without a single security incident related to our equipment. Not one,” said Alykhan Velshi. “We look forward to the Government of Canada making an evidence-based decision on Huawei’s role in Canada’s 5G rollout.
“This decision should be made by, in, and for Canada, not Donald Trump’s Washington.”
In recent weeks, while much of the world has been focused on the pandemic’s rising death toll, Washington has announced new measures aimed at curbing Huawei’s global influence.
On May 15, the U.S. Department of Commerce changed its export control rules to restrict “… Huawei’s ability to use U.S. technology and software to design and manufacture its semiconductors abroad.”
The move is meant to make it harder for Huawei to obtain the supplies it needs, to significantly raise its operating costs and to force the company to rely on goods that may be less reliable and more vulnerable.
As a middle power, Canada often has found itself taking collateral diplomatic damage from tensions between U.S. and China, as both superpowers fight to become the global leader in technology.
That damage started ramping up in December of 2018, when Canada arrested Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou on a U.S. extradition request.
Beijing immediately demanded her release and executed swift retaliatory actions. Two Canadians — Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor — were arbitrarily detained in China; they’ve been held for more than 500 days. Beijing took trade action as well, halting large purchases of Canadian canola and, for a time, Canadian pork.
Ortagus condemned China’s imprisonment of the two Canadians. She said U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has brought this issue up regularly during high-profile meetings with his Chinese counterparts.
“The United States, we’re taking a lot of actions, doing everything we can behind the scenes with the Canadian government,” she said.
Asked if the United States might deploy sanctions to pressure China to release the two men, Ortagus said “we’re not going to preview any public actions that we may take.”
Ontario, Quebec account for more than 90% of national COVID-19 cases: federal data – CBC.ca
While new federal figures show the emergence of new cases of COVID-19 is slowing in some parts of Canada, the pandemic continues — and some regions and age groups are being hit particularly hard.
During a briefing in Ottawa this morning, Canada’s Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Theresa Tam and her colleague Dr. Howard Njoo walked Canadians through their updated modelling on the number of COVID-19-related illnesses and deaths Canada could see over the next few weeks.
The new figures show that Canada could see between 97,990 and 107,454 cases and between 7,700 and 9,400 deaths by June 15.
The report highlights how different provinces are experiencing the pandemic.
Ontario and Quebec have accounted for more than 90 per cent of national COVID-19 cases in the past 14 days, according to Tam and Njoo.
There has been no community transmission in Prince Edward Island, the Northwest Territories and the Yukon, and no cases have been reported to date in Nunavut.
The numbers show COVID-19 is still disproportionately hitting Canadians in long-term care and seniors’ homes; they represent 18 per cent of all cases and 82 per cent of Canada’s 7,495 deaths.
It’s the third time Canada’s leading public health officials have given an update on the expected impact the novel coronavirus will have on the Canadian population. It comes as some provinces have reported a downturn in cases and are beginning to reopen their economies, including some schools, stores and parks.
The doctors said the evidence shows health measures have been effective in controlling the epidemic. They also warned that lifting those measures without strengthening other public health measures likely would cause the epidemic to rebound.
‘Not out of the woods:’ Trudeau
“The data shows that we are continuing to make progress in the fight against this virus. In many communities, the number of new cases is low and we can trace where there came from. That’s an encouraging sign that the virus is slowing and in some places even stopping,” Trudeau told reporters outside his home at Rideau Cottage Thursday morning.
“But I want to be very clear, we’re not out of the woods. The pandemic is still threatening the health and safety of Canadians.”
As of Thursday morning, Canada has 93,085 confirmed and presumptive novel coronavirus cases, with 51,048 of the cases considered recovered or resolved, according to data compiled by The Canadian Press.
Ontario reported 356 additional cases of COVID-19 on Thursday as the province’s network of labs processed a record number of tests for the novel coronavirus.
The 1.2 per cent jump in cases brings the total in Ontario since the outbreak began in late January to 29,403.
The federal projection figures don’t always pan into reality.
At the end of April, the government estimated that Canada was on a path to between 53,196 and 66,835 cases of COVID-19, and between 3,277 and 3,883 deaths, by May 5.
According to CBC News figures, as of May 5 there were more than 62,000 confirmed and presumptive coronavirus cases and 4,166 people had died.
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