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As more provinces, countries share coronavirus scenarios, Trudeau tells Canadians: wait

Coronavirus outbreak: Trudeau asked if government expects social distancing measures to remain until July
Speaking to reporters outside Rideau Cottage in Ottawa, Ontario on Wednesday, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was asked about recent media reports that the Government of Canada expects the social distancing and public shutdown guidelines to continue until July.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is facing renewed pressure to share government modelling on the best-case and worst-case scenarios for the coronavirus pandemic.

He has repeatedly declined to share modelling of potential outcomes with Canadians even while warning that social distancing rules could last months.

But on Thursday, he said some more information will be coming “soon” even as he insisted that sharing modelling would not be useful.

“You want to see the numbers and the predictions … you want to plan. You want to prepare for the worst, you want to know what to be hopeful about,” Trudeau said during a press conference with journalists outside Rideau Cottage on Thursday.

“I know and we’ll have more information coming to you soon.”

READ MORE: Without global action against coronavirus pandemic, 40 million could have died

Countries around the world have started to offer their grim vision for how the disease could play out.

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In the United States, officials said Tuesday there could be between 100,000 and 240,000 deaths in that country as a result of COVID-19, with 200,000 expected even “if we do things almost perfectly.”

New Zealand published a government-commissioned model to design its “plan for” scenario, where 65 per cent of the public becomes infected, 336,000 people require hospitalization and between 12,600 and 33,600 to die.

And a report by Reuters on Thursday cited a U.K. official as saying that country’s worst-case scenario was 50,000 deaths, but cautioning that isn’t being viewed as likely right now.

READ MORE: Comparing coronavirus responses — What did Canada and the U.S. do differently?

Among the voices in Canada urging the government to share more is former federal health minister Jane Philpott, whom Trudeau kicked out of the Liberal caucus last year after she raised concerns about his handling of the SNC-Lavalin scandal.

Philpott tweeted on Thursday that the time is now for what she called “radical transparency.”

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Trudeau was pressed Thursday by journalists on what the modelling says, why it isn’t being shared, whether sharing it could encourage people to take the virus more seriously, and when it could be shared. Trudeau replied:

“I think people can imagine a range of scenarios.”

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“There is a range out there and just highlighting that range is not as useful or important as being able to get clearer numbers and analysis of what we are likely to face. But everything we are going to face will be directly linked to how people behave today.”

Some provinces, though, have started or are planning to release their projections for how COVID-19 could affect and in some cases overwhelm Canada’s health care systems.

British Columbia released its modelling roughly one week ago. It included both a best-case scenario based on the spread of the virus in South Korea along with a worst-case scenario model based on the crisis in Italy.

B.C. health officials release medical models of worst-case coronavirus scenarios
B.C. health officials release medical models of worst-case coronavirus scenarios

Those models laid out both projected cases if no control measures were in place, current projects and growth rates of infections, as well as the predictions for the potential shortage of hospital beds.

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READ MORE: 77 Alberta health-care workers infected with new coronavirus

Ontario Premier Doug Ford also vowed on Thursday to release projections on Friday.

“You deserve to see the same data that I see, you deserve to know what I know,” he said during a briefing with media on the state of the virus in the province.

A spokesperson for Alberta Health also said that province plans to do the same.

“Alberta will be releasing modelling data in the coming days. An exact release date has not yet been set,” said Tom McMillan, spokesperson for Alberta Health.

ICU beds, ventilators and COVID-19 infection modelling discussed in the Alberta legislature
ICU beds, ventilators and COVID-19 infection modelling discussed in the Alberta legislature

Late Wednesday night, Alberta Premier Jason Kenney said during an emergency debate in the provincial legislature that public health modelling predicts cases of COVID-19 could peak in Alberta in early May.

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Kenney said about 250 people will be in intensive care unit beds with COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus.

“Things will get worse before they get better,” the premier said. “I also want everyone to know that Alberta’s pandemic response is second to none in North America.”

READ MORE: Canada may be missing thousands of coronavirus cases, experts say

The calculations, created by Alberta Health Services (AHS), are also prompting the province to prepare for a much more dire, worst-case scenario. Kenney said there are plans to have 925 ventilators and 1,200 ICU beds available by the end of the month.

AHS has freed up 1,300 acute care beds to date and is on track to make 2,250 beds available for COVID-19 patients by April 22, according to the premier.

A leaked report of the potential forecast in Saskatchewan was also obtained by Global News last week, and that shows the government there views 15,000 deaths as the worst-case scenario.

Coronavirus outbreak: Ontario health officials say COVID-19 testing backlog ‘pretty well gone’
Coronavirus outbreak: Ontario health officials say COVID-19 testing backlog ‘pretty well gone’

Ford has said previously that his government was hesitant to release any data or modelling on the potential impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, fearing it could cause “panic.”

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“Those models can drastically change. If we underestimate on one side and we overestimate on the other, it could create a panic if we overestimate,” Ford told reporters Wednesday at Queen’s Park.

“Our message is very clear. We are going through some turbulent waters over the next few weeks and we need to do everything we can to make sure that people self-isolate.”

READ MORE: Leaked SHA document shows worst-case scenario outcome of coronavirus in Saskatchewan

Quebec’s Health Ministry also told Global News it would not release its modelling or projections.

“Based on the statistics currently available, it is possible to make certain extrapolations over time in order to estimate the needs that the network and the [Quebec] might have,” a spokesperson said in an email, adding that the different scenarios are produced by the General Directorate of Public Health.

“However, all of these internal tools used as working documents are confidential and intended for government authorities.”

Coronavirus outbreak: Health officials confirm 20 new cases of COVID-19 in Nova Scotia
Coronavirus outbreak: Health officials confirm 20 new cases of COVID-19 in Nova Scotia

Nova Scotia’s chief medical officer Robert Strang said the province was working on this type of modelling, but wouldn’t give a timeline on when it might be released.

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“We are in the process of doing that modelling,” Strang said Wednesday. “And that is fairly sophisticated work. Larger provinces have more capacity with technical expertise.”

“Smaller provinces don’t have the resources to readily turn this around.”

Canada has now more than 10,100 confirmed cases on Thursday and at least 127 deaths. The provinces of Ontario, British Columbia and Quebec have the highest numbers of COVID-19 cases.

Ontario announced 401 more cases on April 2, bringing its total to almost 2,800 and 53 deaths.

Global News has reached out to representatives from all provinces, asking whether or when they plan to release modelling of their forecasts.

This story will be updated with additional responses as they come in.

With files from Julia Wong