It’s been just over three weeks since the World Health Organization declared a global pandemic in response to the 2019 novel coronavirus — but doesn’t it feel like longer? A lot longer?
Sadly, this period of intense restrictions and social distancing may last for some time: 18 months to two years, say top public health officials.
The province of Ontario just released its predictive modelling projections for how the COVID-19 outbreak could pan out locally under a number of different scenarios.
Top government doctors have been using these models to advise public policy since the coronavirus first hit and say that, while it’s impossible to accurately predict what will happen, the province will likely see see 80,000 cases of COVID-19 by the end of April alone with 1,600 deaths under current restrictions.
Had the province not put these restrictions into place sooner, it could have seen 100,000 deaths or more by the end of the pandemic. Instead, with full public health measures in place, between 3,500 and 15,000 COVID-19 fatalities are expected in Ontario.
“I think it’s important that we are robustly realistic about the scale of the challenge that we face, said Public Health Ontario President Dr. Peter Donnelly in a press conference Friday afternoon.
“Over the the full year course of the pandemic, had we done nothing, Ontario may have suffered 100,000 deaths.”
Like public health experts in many jurisdictions around the world, Donnelly noted that “the full course of this pandemic” could “last for 18 months or even two years, because we may have a smaller, secondary, or tertiary wave.”
Most scientists say similarly that it could be at least 18 months before a vaccine is discovered for COVID-19, which has a mortality rate 10 times higher than the flu, according to Donnelly.
It remains to be seen how orders mandating the closure of businesses in Ontario and across Canada will change as the outbreak progresses, but we’re all hoping that the lockdown eases up a bit before two years is up.