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Can’t relax yet despite progress in curbing COVID-19: officials

Some provinces reporting stable numbers of new positive cases, Ontario says community spread has likely peaked.


OTTAWA — Canada’s public health measures have helped bring the national COVID-19 outbreak further under control, medical officials said, even as they cautioned a return to pre-pandemic life may not be in the offing for some time.

A handful of provinces reported stable numbers of new positive cases, while Ontario – one of the provinces hardest-hit by the virus – said community spread has likely peaked.

Canada’s top doctor said the overall situation is improving.

Dr. Theresa Tam said much of the credit for the tentative turnaround lies with Canadians who have followed public health guidance and embraced physical distancing, but added those new habits must stay in place for some time.

“Now is absolutely not the time to change our current stance,” she said. “We need to keep going on our public health measures. But I think it’s a testament to the work of all Canadians that we have managed to move to this more positive direction.”

Tam’s assessment comes as Ontario, currently grappling with the second-highest case count in the country, released numbers showing progress in the province’s fight against the novel coronavirus.

New government modelling shows the peak of the outbreak, previously expected in May, is unfolding right now in communities outside of congregate care settings. The figures showed the province is poised to witness the best-case scenario in terms of toll on the health-care system and the number of fatalities.

But the curve needs to flatten further before the province can end its declaration of emergency and begin reviving the economy, according to Barbara Yaffe, the province’s associate chief medical officer of health.

“When we do start to lift some of the measures, it will not be a light switch on-off,” she said. “It will be very gradual, and we will have to measure the impact of each change and make sure we’re not seeing more infection as we lift it. Because once we lift it, it will be very hard to go back.”

The situation in the province’s long-term care facilities, group homes and jails remained bleak, with at least 127 outbreaks reported in such facilities across the province.

The fresh projections came hours after Ontario reported 606 new COVID-19 cases in the province, along with 31 new deaths since Sunday morning.

While the figure represents the highest single-day increase in positive diagnoses, the case growth rate has stayed relatively low and stable for the past week.

Numbers also continued to climb in Quebec, which has by far the highest COVID-19 caseload in Canada.

As the government recorded a provincial death toll nearing the 1,000 mark and total cases in excess of 19,000, Premier Francois Legault announced measures to ramp up staffing levels in the long-term care homes at the centre of the outbreak.

He said Quebec would delay all non-urgent activities in hospitals for the next two weeks to address a 2,000-person staff shortage in long-term care settings.

Nova Scotia reported 46 new cases on April 20, making it the epicentre of the outbreak in Atlantic Canada.

Prince Edward Island and Newfoundland and Labrador both reported no new positive tests, while New Brunswick said it had not recorded any new cases in six of the past 10 days.

Manitoba reported only one positive case, but the government opted to extend the provincial state of emergency until May 17 and is still considering whether to ease restrictions capping public gatherings at 10 people.

Saskatchewan, too, reported just one new case as of April 20.

More than 35,700 Canadians have tested positive for COVID-19, and over 1,600 people have died across the country.

 

News from © Canadian Press Enterprises Inc. 2016

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