OTTAWA/TORONTO:Experts advising Canada’s most populous province of Ontario said on Friday new COVID-19 cases could more than double to 10,000 a day in June, and potentially overwhelm hospitals, even if a stay at home order is extended.
The dire forecast came as Moderna said it would cut its next delivery to Canada by nearly half to 650,000 doses, and Canada announced a deal to buy 8 million more Pfizer vaccine doses.
“Cases have risen. Hospitals have filled up,” Adalsteinn Brown, co-chair of the province’s science advisory panel, told reporters. “The numbers are still rising, but the biggest problem we now face may be that we’re just too tired to notice.”
The number of patients in need of intensive care could reach 2,000 in May, up from 695 on Friday, briefing materials released by the panel showed.
In recent weeks Ontario has closed schools, restaurants, limited in-store shopping, and cancelled elective surgeries as a surge of admissions threatened to overwhelm hospitals.
Ontario, home to 38% of Canada’s population, announced a record 4,812 cases on Friday.
A graph of case projections shared by the panel showed cases rising above 10,000 per day in June if there were “moderate” public health measures for six weeks, and vaccination levels remain roughly flat. Brown said the moderate scenario was equivalent to a stay at home order announced last week.
Ontario Premier Doug Ford and his health minister are due to make an announcement at 3:30 p.m. Eastern Time (1930 GMT), but few concrete details have emerged ahead of his speech.
HOSPITALS UNDER PRESSURE
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said the Canadian government would help hard hit Toronto, the province’s capital and the country’s largest city.
“We’re going to do whatever it takes to help,” Trudeau told reporters. “Discussions are ongoing about extra healthcare providers, and we are ready to step up.”
Canada’s response has been complicated by the division of responsibilities between the provinces and Ottawa, which helps fund healthcare but does not run medical services. The federal government is buying vaccines but the provinces are in charge of most inoculations and healthcare.
Trudeau said Canada had agreed to purchase 8 million extra doses of Pfizer’s vaccine, including 4 million to be delivered in May, nearly doubling Pfizer’s shipments that month. Federal officials had previously said most Canadians should receive a first dose by the end of June.
In the north end of Toronto, Sunnybrook Hospital is preparing to open a mobile health unit, effectively a field hospital, for some COVID patients as soon as next week, a spokesman said in an emailed statement.
The city’s University Health Network (UHN) is installing tents at two emergency rooms to increase space.
The number of patients at UHN on extracorporeal membrane oxygenation, an artificial lung treatment sometimes used to keep the sickest COVID patients alive, reached 23, including 20 with COVID. The hospital network had previously said it could treat up to 30 patients.
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