“Normality as it was before will not come back full-on until we get a vaccine for this… That will be a very long way off,” the prime minister said during his daily news conference on Canada’s response to the COVID-19 outbreak.
“We will have to remain vigilant for at least a year,” he added in French.
Trudeau’s comments came just after the release of modelling data that federal health officials have been using to inform Canada’s response to the pandemic.
The models suggested the first wave of the virus could end roughly sometime in the summer, but that further “wavelets” are possible in the following months.
Epidemic controls and surveillance will have to continue over that time so “the chains” of the virus don’t “reignite,” said Dr. Theresa Tam, Canada’s chief public health officer.
Canada is developing “tools and habits” now that will allow the country to be “much more resilient and resistant to further outbreaks and spreads,” Trudeau later told reporters.
Even then, “there will be things we just aren’t able to do” for a year to 18 months, he added in French.
The prime minister urged Canadians once again to stay at home and limit their trips outside so the country can get through the first wave of the virus “as quickly as possible.”
While it’s unclear what extended epidemic controls would look like in Canada at this point, analysis by Harvard researchers, released March 27 ahead of peer review, suggested that multiple “intermittent” periods of physical distancing might be a more effective strategy for saving lives than continuing with “strict” distancing measures.
Health officials still aren’t sure where Canada is on the epidemic curve and won’t know when the virus has peaked until after that’s happened, Tam said.
The possible pandemic scenarios are “very sensitive” to people’s actions, the country’s top doctor underscored.
If Canada keeps strong epidemic control measures in place, between 11,000 and 22,000 people could die over the course of the pandemic — the best-case scenario for the country, the federal projections released Thursday suggest.
The number of possible deaths due to COVID-19 would surge into the hundreds of thousands if 25 per cent or more of the population is infected, according to the models.
“We are the authors of our fate,” Tam said.
As of Thursday, there are 19,759 confirmed cases of the new coronavirus in the country and 461 related deaths, according to the Public Health Agency of Canada.
This month alone, the federal models predict a total of 22,580 to 31,850 coronavirus cases by April 16, which may result in approximately 500 to 700 deaths by that date.