As of Wednesday, Canada has 569 known cases of the novel coronavirus, or about 1.5 per 100,000.
That, more or less, is where Italy was three weeks or so ago, in the last week of February. Italy at that point had had 10 deaths, while Canada now has eight.
In late February, it would be fair to say that Italy was roughly as affected as Canada is now.
Theatres closed, school and university closures had happened but weren’t affecting the whole country, and people in the worst-hit regions were asked to go into voluntary isolation.
Does Italy’s trajectory offer a template for what we should expect in Canada? We should hope not, since their national death toll has now passed 2,500, and the country now has over 30,000 known infections.
Steven Hoffman, a professor of global health, law and political science at York University, points to differences between Canada and Italy: Italy’s much older population and the fact that Canada had had two or three weeks more warning.
“I would say it’s fuzzy, useful, but not exactly what we would necessarily expect in Canada,” he says.
“One of the biggest things about Italy is that it’s the second-oldest population in the world, only after Japan. Because this virus has such age-dependent consequences, that fact makes it a very different scenario.
“It’s probably not the best comparison to Canada.”
Being among the first Western countries to be affected by the coronavirus was unlucky for Italy, not just because it had less time to prepare, but also because the public had less time to fully understand the danger and accept very disruptive public health measures, he says. But at this point, Canada has more warning.
“Canadians have had an opportunity to see some bad situations outside of our country, and then might react differently once it gets worse here, knowing what has happened outside of our country.”
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