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UPDATE 1-Canada at 'crossroads' with COVID-19 case numbers rising

Tue, 22nd Sep 2020 18:30

(Adds comments, details)

By Steve Scherer

OTTAWA, Sept 22 (Reuters) - Canada is facing a surge in
COVID-19 cases that risks ballooning to higher levels than were
seen during the first wave of the pandemic in the spring if
people do not take stringent precautions, health officials said
on Monday.

"Canada is at a crossroads and individual action to reduce
contact rates will decide our path," said a statement from the
Public Health Agency.

According to a worst-case scenario outlined by the agency,
cases could rise more than 1,000 per day for the next 10 days to
155,795 by Oct. 2, with the death toll hitting 9,300. On Monday,
Canada had reported 145,415 total cases and 9,228 deaths.

Canada's chief public health officer, Theresa Tam, outlined
three scenarios, with the most favorable being a "slow burn"
that involves active case detection and tracing, and for
individuals to take all the necessary precautions.

However, if action is not taken, the outcome could be
disastrous, she said.

"With minimum controls, the virus is capable of surging into
a very sharp and intense peak ... (that) could overwhelm our
health system capacity and significantly impact our social and
economic systems as well," she said.

Even with enhanced detection and tracing, if people do not
take precautions health officials see cases "far exceeding the
peak we reached in the spring," Tam said.

Tam's comments are the latest in a series of warnings from
health officials across Canada about the potential spread of the
disease. Authorities are particularly concerned about the rapid
spread among young people.

Procurement Minister Anita Anand also announced new
agreements in obtaining eventual coronavirus vaccines and a
first purchase of remdesivir, an anti-viral medication produced
by Gilead Sciences Inc.

Anand said Canada also announced a new agreement with Sanofi
and GSK for up to 72 million doses of their potential
COVID-19 vaccine, and increased by up to 14 million doses a
previous agreement for the Moderna vaccine.
(Reporting by Steve Scherer, additional reporting by David
Ljunggren; Editing by Steve Orlofsky)

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