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‘What medicines work?’: Canada’s scientists at forefront of fight against COVID-19 – Global News

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Public health officials across Canada and around the world are working flat out to test as many people as possible for the novel coronavirus.

Srinivas Murthy is working to figure out how to help them if the result is positive.

“What medicines work?” he asks. “We don’t know.”

Murthy, a professor of critical care at the University of British Columbia, is one of hundreds of Canadian scientists spending long hours in their labs and by their computers trying to help governments and clinicians figure out how to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic.


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Earlier this month, the federal government awarded almost $27 million in grants to coronavirus-related research. The money is funding 47 projects across the country.

There are studies into faster diagnostic tests, how the disease is transmitted and the structure of the virus itself. Other scientists are considering why some people ignore public health warnings and how the public perceives risk.

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Some are asking how to keep health workers safe. Some are looking at the effects on children or Indigenous people or on food security. Lessons from past public-health crises are also being studied.






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U.S. restricts travel across northern, southern borders

“It’s basic research. It’s public health research. It’s community-based research,” said Yoav Keynan of the National Collaborating Centre for Infectious Diseases at the University of Manitoba.

“Many are redirecting their efforts to the virus. There are many things that need to be worked on.”

Murthy is trying to find out how hospitals can treat patients who have the COVID-19 virus. Each virus is different, he said, and what works on one won’t work on another.

“This is a new virus,” he said. “We don’t know what specific medication works.”


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That means trying familiar drugs that have been effective on other viruses. Using what’s known about this coronavirus, Murthy estimates the chances of old drugs working on it and starts with the most likely candidate.

“We build on what we’ve already got,” he said.

Right now, he’s working with an antiviral agent that was originally developed in the fight against AIDS. Clinical trials with COVID-19 patients who have agreed to participate are the next step.

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“We know it’s safe,” said Murthy. “We don’t know if it’s effective.”






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Coronavirus outbreak: Trudeau tells Canadians ‘it’s going to get bad’

When you include public health and medical personnel involved, the scientific fight against the coronavirus now involves thousands of people, Keynan said.

“There are many gaps in understanding the transmission of the virus — how long the virus stays on surfaces or the proportion of individuals that contract the virus but remain asymptomatic and serve as a reservoir for spreading the virus.”

The good news is that public-health research has come a long way since the SARS virus swept through 26 countries in 2003.






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Infectious disease expert says Canada needs to do more to fight coronavirus


Infectious disease expert says Canada needs to do more to fight coronavirus

“We have better communication, better knowledge-sharing and better lab capacity,” said Keynan.

“Sharing of information globally and within Canada has improved dramatically over the last 17 years. And we’re going to need all of it.”

Canadian scientists are at the forefront of worldwide efforts to bend the curve of COVID-19 infections down, said Keynan.

“Canadian researchers are global leaders in infectious diseases and virology and we have better capacity than we had in 2003 to be meaningful contributors. We are making contributions.”


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But no single lab or nation is going to come up with all the answers on its own, Keynan said.

“This is not a Canadian effort. This is a global effort.”

© 2020 The Canadian Press

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Canada is expecting rise in Coronavirus deaths as job losses touch 1 million – International Business Times, Singapore Edition

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Canada is expecting the increase in the number of coronavirus deaths from the current 435 to as high as 22,000 by the time the pandemic ends, health officials stated on Thursday, while the economy suffered a loss of one million jobs last month.

The officials outlined two scenarios which are most likely to take place, showing that between 11,000 and 22,000 people will die. The total number of positive coronavirus cases ranged from 934,000 to 1.9 million.

The officials said they expected between 500 and 700 people in Canada to die from the coronavirus by April 16. There have been 18,447 positive diagnoses so far. “Models are not a crystal ball,” Theresa Tam, Canada’s chief public health officer, told a briefing, saying it was too early to predict when the peak would be.

Canada may witness 22,000 deaths due to Coronavirus

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Tam said it was crucial that people continued to obey instructions to stay at home as much as possible. “While some of the numbers released today may seem stark, Canada’s modeling demonstrates that the country still has an opportunity to control the epidemic,” she said. “We cannot prevent every death but we must prevent all the deaths that we can.”

Local governments across Canada have ordered non-essential businesses shut to combat the spread of the coronavirus, throwing millions out of work. Canada lost a record-breaking 1 million jobs in March while the unemployment rate soared to 7.8 percent, Statistics Canada said on Thursday, adding that the figures did not reflect the real toll. “Sticker shock for sure. This was about as bad as it could be,” said Derek Holt, vice president of capital markets economics at Scotiabank.

More than five million Canadians had applied for all forms of federal emergency unemployment help since March 15, government data showed on Thursday, suggesting the real jobless rate is closer to 25 percent. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s Liberal government has so far announced a range of measures to help businesses that total around C$110 billion ($78.3 billion) in direct spending, or 5 percent of gross domestic product. Canada’s independent parliamentary budget officer predicted the budget deficit would balloon to C$184.2 billion in the 2020-2021 fiscal year from C$27.4 billion in the 2019‑2020 fiscal year.

(With agency inputs)

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Controls can keep Canadian COVID-19 deaths under 22,000, health agency says – Agassiz-Harrison Observer

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With strong control measures, the federal public health agency projects that 11,000 to 22,000 Canadians could die of COVID-19 in the coming months.

In a report released Thursday, (April 9) Public Health Agency of Canada says short-term estimates are more reliable, and it anticipates 500 to 700 deaths by the end of next week.

The agency released modelling data this morning with different possible scenarios, warning that what happens depends very much on how Canadians behave to keep the respiratory illness from spreading.

With poor containment measures, the death toll could be much, much higher, the agency says.

It says the COVID-19 battle in Canada is still in its early stages but Canada’s numbers of confirmed cases have been increasing more slowly than in other countries.

The agency the fight against the novel coronavirus will likely take many months and require cycles of tighter and weaker controls.

Later on Thursday (April 9), Chief medical officer Dr. TheresaTam said the “aspirational and our ambitious goal” was that just one per cent of the population is infected with COVID-19. With a population of 37.6 million, that would mean about 376,000 people would be infected.

Tam said there were 17,766 total confirmed cases of the virus and 461 deaths as of Thursday.

“I recognize there changes in our daily lives… are extremely difficult,” Tam said during a press conference in Ottawa.

She said the measures had “allowed the healthcare system to cope.”

She called on Canadians to make the upcoming long weekend a “staycation for the nation,” and stay home to celebrate with their household, or virtually with other friends and family.

Tam said health officials were evaluation the effect of measures like physical distancing and self-isolation daily.

“No one is gathering, really… we’re just trying to strengthen the message to Canadians that you should avoid all non-essential travel and stay at home as much as possible,” she said.

“We know that contact tracing is very key.”

READ MORE: COVID-19 predictions coming ‘soon’, but results will depend on how Canadians act: Trudeau

READ MORE: Wearing non-medical masks can stop spread of COVID-19 before symptoms start: Tam

READ MORE: Canadians awake to extra COVID-19 emergency benefit money, feds clarify changes

The Canadian Press


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Virus modelling estimates 11,000 to 22,000 Canadian deaths if physical distancing continues – The Globe and Mail

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Chief Public Health Officer Theresa Tam responds to a question during a news conference in Ottawa, on April 8, 2020.

Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press

In the next year, between 11,000 and 22,000 Canadians could die as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, in what officials say are among the best-case scenarios for the disease.

The federal pandemic models released Thursday show that the country could see 22,580 to 31,850 cases by April 16, resulting in between 500 and 700 deaths.

Canada already has 19,291 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 435 confirmed deaths as a result of the disease.

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Disease modelling is meant to show what might happen as the illness spreads across Canada, and does not predict what will happen.

In reading the models, Canada’s Chief Public Health Officer, Dr. Theresa Tam, has warned they are not a “crystal ball,” and instead serve to inform decision-makers about where they need to put resources, the health system’s capacity to respond to the virus, and what other measures need to be put in place to further limit transmission.

At a technical briefing, Dr. Tam and her deputy, Dr. Howard Njoo, outlined three possible scenarios facing Canada over the next year.

With strong epidemic control measures, such as a high degree of physical distancing and a high per cent of testing and contact tracing, the models show the epidemic could last until the fall and infect between one and 10 per cent of the population. Officials say that is Canada’s best-case scenario.

The potential 11,000 to 22,000 range in deaths is based on an overall infection rate of between 2.5 and 5 per cent.

“We cannot prevent every death but we must prevent every death that we can,” Dr. Tam said, adding that the models show Canada must continue with its physical-distancing measures already in place.

If no policy measures, such as physical distancing, were put in place, the models show 70 and 80 per cent of people could become infected and more than 300,000 people could die.

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A middle-of-the-road scenario, where weaker controls would delay and reduce the peak, could lead to between 25 and 50 per cent of residents becoming infected with COVID-19 and more than 100,000 people could die. In that case, officials said the first wave of the pandemic could last until spring, 2021.

Dr. Tam said the models released by Ottawa show the first wave of the virus and warned that even when Canada is over the peak of the outbreak, some restrictions will need to stay in place to ensure the epidemic does not “reignite.”

She added that it is not clear yet when the pandemic will peak in different parts of the country, because no region is on the downward slope of its infection curve. Since at least half of all cases will come after the initial peak, the need for strong measures to reduce contact among individuals will need to continue for some time after it is clear that the first wave of the pandemic has crested, she said.

Nicholas Ogden, a senior scientist with the health agency, said that the fatality rate estimated for the Canadian figures – about 1.18 per cent of confirmed cases – was based on a range of factors and international data.

The federal government released its modelling after many provinces had done the same. On Wednesday, Alberta, Saskatchewan and Newfoundland and Labrador all released their models. British Columbia, Ontario, New Brunswick and Quebec have also already made their models public.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Canada is benefitting from being hit by the global pandemic after many other countries. “For the time being,” he said, the health care system is able to cope with the spread of the virus but the country is “at a fork in the road.”

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“We have the chance to determine what our country looks like in the weeks and months to come,” Mr. Trudeau said, meaning Canadians will have to continues to stay home and remain disciplined.

“This will be the new normal until a vaccine is developed,” Mr. Trudeau said.

Experts say making the models public is a way for officials to build trust with citizens who are being asked to take restrictive and economically painful measures to blunt the impact of the virus.

Despite new restrictions on exports of medical goods from the United States, Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland says hundreds of thousands of masks have made it across the border. The Canadian Press

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