Trudeau: Hospitals face crisis; models show massive spike in cases

APPEAL TO COUNTRY: Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau attends a news conference at Rideau Cottage, as efforts continue to help slow the spread of the coronavirus disease in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, Nov. 20. Blair Gable/Reuters

OTTAWA (Reuters) – Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said on Friday that Canada’s hospital system could be overwhelmed as modeling showed new COVID-19 cases were set to more than quadruple by year end from current levels, and he implored Canadians to stay home as much as possible.

A second wave of the novel coronavirus is ripping across the country, forcing several of the 10 provinces to reimpose restrictions on movement and businesses. Cases continue to spike and authorities complain some people are being more careless about taking precautions.

“A normal Christmas is quite frankly right out of the question,” Trudeau said. Earlier, chief public health officer Theresa Tam.

Tam said the worst case scenario, a spike to 60,000 daily cases, would occur if people became more sociable. Even if current restrictions on gatherings are maintained, new daily cases will jump to over 20,000 by Dec. 31 compared with less than 5,000 now.

“Cases across the country are spiking massively ... we’re really at risk of seeing case loads go up and hospitals get overwhelmed,” said a clearly upset Trudeau.

He dismissed the idea of Ottawa invoking emergency powers to reintroduce the kind of widespread national shutdown that provinces imposed earlier in the year, saying “I’m not looking to bring in a federal hammer to try and do things.”

Only if people reduce their personal contacts can the situation be kept stable and even then, the experience of European nations strongly suggests more curbs will be needed, Tam said.

“Absolutely do not go above what we have now (in terms of daily cases) otherwise we are really in trouble,” she said.

Officials predict that by Nov. 30 the total death toll could be between 11,870 and 12,120, with the total cases between 366,500 and 378,600. Canada has recorded a total of 315,751 cases and 11,265 deaths so far.

Separately on Friday, a federal official said Canada expects to receive six million doses of Pfizer and Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccines by March 31, 2021, though when the shots can be used will depend on regulatory approval.

Iain Stewart, president of the Public Health Agency of Canada, told a parliamentary committee that because the vaccines were new, manufacturers need to scale up to meet the overall demand.

“All countries are interested in the very first vaccines, and the companies are trying to distribute out to multiple countries at the same time, so the amounts start out small and then they build over the course of the coming year,” he said.

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