A sign directs people to a Covid-19 assessment centre in Ottawa last week. (Sean Kilpatrick/Canadian Press)

Coming week ‘crucial’ in Canadian COVID-19 battle

Canada’s chief medical officer says the coming week will be “crucial” in the country’s fight against COVID-19 because public health officials will begin to see whether or not aggressive distancing measures taken to mitigate the spread of the virus are working. 

“I still think it’s a little too early to tell because we are only at the end of March, but next week will be very important in terms of looking at those trends,”  Dr. Theresa Tam said at her daily update on Sunday.

As of Monday morning, Canada was reporting just under 5,600 active cases and 67 deaths from the virus.

Thousands of Canadians are awaiting test results.

Noting that the incubation for the virus can be up to 14 days, Tam said measures taken over the past two weeks–when the country ramped up counter-COVID-19 measures–won’t start showing up in the data tracking the rate of spread until this week.

She said she will be closely watching Ontario, Quebec and Alberta to see if there will be a decrease in the rate of new confirmed cases, as British Columbia has seen.

On Friday, the B.C. government released a report showing that physical distancing measures had helped to cut the province’s rate of growth in new cases to 12 per cent per day. Without physical distancing measures, the report said that number would be closer to 24 per cent.

B.C.’s chief public health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said the data offered a “glimmer of hope,” but that the province needed to stay the course.

Meanwhile, Quebec Premier François Legault also expressed cautious optimism, saying Sunday that the increase in positive cases in the province “seems to be stabilizing.”

Prior to the slightly upbeat notes officials were playing, Canada’s deputy chief public health officer, Dr. Howard Njoo, issued a sobering assessment of the situation.

“It’s definitely months. Many months,” Njoo said.

With files from CBC (Ryan Patrick Jones, Colin Harris, Marilla Steuter-Martin), Canadian Press

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