Canada Needs to Rapidly Escalate Public Health Interventions for Its COVID-19 Mitigation Strategies
13 Pages Posted: 24 Mar 2020 Last revised: 27 Mar 2020
Date Written: March 23, 2020
Background. After the declaration of COVID-19 pandemic on March 11th 2020, local transmission chains starting in different countries including Canada are forcing governments to take decisions on public health interventions to mitigate the spread of the epidemic.
Methods. We conduct data-driven and model-free estimations for the growth rates of the COVID-19 epidemics in Italy and Canada, by fitting an exponential curve to the daily reported cases. We use these estimates to predict epidemic trends in Canada under different scenarios of public health interventions.
Results. In Italy, the initial growth rate (0.22) has reduced to 0.1 two weeks after the lockdown of the country on March 8th 2020. This corresponds to a reduction of the doubling time from about 3.15 to almost 7 days. In comparison, the growth rate in Canada has increased from 0.13 between March 1st and 13th, to 0.25 between March 13th to 22nd. This current growth rate corresponds to a doubling time of 2.7 days, and therefore, unless further public health interventions are escalated in Canada, we project 15,000 cases by March 31st. However, the case number can be reduced to 4,000 if escalated public health interventions can be implemented instantly to reduce the growth rate to 0.1, the same level achieved in Italy.
Interpretation. Intervention measures implemented so far in different countries worldwide have been effective in reducing the growth rate and increasing the doubling time, but their effects come with a substantial delay as long as 2 weeks. Prompt and farsighted interventions are critical to counteract the very rapid initial growth of the COVID-19 epidemic in Canada. Mitigation plans must take into account the delayed effect of interventions by up to 2-weeks and the short doubling time of 3-4 days.
Keywords: COVID-19; pandemics; growth rate; public health; intervention measures; Italy; Canada
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