Despite Worrisome Climb in COVID-19 Cases, Ontario and Quebec Still Reopening

The only way reopening will work is if provinces drastically ramp up coronavirus testing and track down sources of exposure, experts say. Otherwise, a second wave is "inevitable."
Ontario Premier Doug Ford
Ontario Premier Doug Ford has said the province wants to test 16,000 people for COVID-19 everyday. Photo by Richard Lautens (CP)

Canada is gradually reopening even though in Ontario and Quebec cases of the coronavirus continue to climb, officials don’t know where they are originating, and testing targets aren’t being met.

As of Friday morning, Ontario had 24,187 COVID-19 cases and Quebec accounted for more than half of Canada’s total with 45,495. (Canada had 81,324 on Friday.)

Quebec even reopened schools and is now gearing up to reboot dentistry and physiotherapy and other medical services, as well as animal grooming shops, salons, and barbershops in June everywhere but in Montreal, COVID-19’s Canadian hotspot.


Several experts have said that reopening doesn’t work unless testing and contact tracing are ramped up, which would allow public health to track down people sick with or at risk of getting COVID-19 and them to isolate.

Ontario has failed to hit testing targets since the pandemic started, as has Quebec.

In Ontario, the goal is to administer 16,000 tests per day, but the province was only hitting about half that this week.

"We're going to ramp up this testing like this province has never seen,” Ontario Premier Doug Ford said Wednesday, adding that in three to four weeks testing will skyrocket.

Ford didn’t offer any specifics detailing how he plans to increase testing.

When compared to Alberta and British Columbia, where public health officials have managed to follow and contain the virus better—Alberta has even expanded COVID-19 testing eligibility to include asymptomatic people—Ontario’s performance isn’t great.

“Overall, Ontario’s performance has not been good, but it’s variable by region. In some areas, there have been very few cases and contact tracing has been very well done. In other regions, they’ve collected a lot of data but they haven’t reported it. And in other places, they’ve just been overwhelmed,” Colin Furness, an infection control epidemiologist at the University of Toronto, told the Toronto Star.

Quebec Premier Francoise Legault has also said he’s keen to increase testing.


A second wave is likely

Epidemiologists say they’re nervous Canada could face a dangerous second wave of COVID-19 in September.

Businesses that reopen could become purveyors of disease, experts say, which is what happened in Seoul, South Korea after people started congregating in bars and clubs again.

Dr. Gerald Evans, medical director of infection control at Kingston Health Sciences Centre, told the Canadian Press that a second wave is “inevitable.”

“"If people start congregating around campfires and other things in parks, and then large groups of golfers are getting together and hanging out, that could facilitate transmission," he said.

In previous pandemics, second waves have been deadlier than the first, CBC News reported.

The only way to prevent a rapid resurgence of COVID-19 spread is to ramp up surveillance measures, epidemiologists say. In short, provinces need to test more people, including those who don’t show symptoms, but may have come into contact with the virus.

Cases in Canada

As of Friday morning, Canada had 81,324 COVID-19 cases and 6,152 deaths.

Here’s a breakdown of confirmed or probable COVID-19 cases across the country:

British Columbia: 2,479

Alberta: 6,768

Saskatchewan: 622

Manitoba: 290

Ontario: 24,187

Quebec: 45,495

Newfoundland and Labrador: 260

New Brunswick: 121

Nova Scotia: 1,046

Prince Edward Island: 27

Yukon: 11

Northwest Territories: 5

Nunavut: 0

Late Thursday, the global total of confirmed COVID-19 cases neared 5 million, with more than 323,000 deaths.

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