WHO expert's advice for Canada: don't just flatten the curve, curtail it
TORONTO -- The Canadian doctor at the forefront of the World Health Organization’s (WHO) fight against the novel coronavirus says Canada is taking the appropriate steps to flatten the curve, noting that the biggest challenge lies in the speed of finding new cases and isolating them.
“The danger that Canada faces, like any other country, are the cases you have in the country right now and how those are managed,” WHO official Dr. Bruce Aylward told CTV News Channel via Skype from Geneva Sunday.
“It’s going to need to be more than flattening the curve—it’s flatten and curtail, or cut that curve as much as possible.”
The Canadian doctor has become the WHO’s leading expert on COVID-19. During the height of the outbreak in Wuhan, China, the epicentre of the virus, Aylward led an international team on a fact-finding mission in the region.
As the outbreak spread across the world, Aylward studied the unprecedented response from global governments as they tried to “flatten the curve.”
“Canada has been doing all the right things,” Aylward said.
“It’s been working very hard to attack this on two fronts. The first is making sure the treatments and capacities are in place to take care of sick Canadians. But, as importantly, trying to find those cases rapidly and trying to isolate, because that’s what slows down the virus.”
Aylward says the best course of action in fighting this disease, so far, has proven to be a good defence and offence.
In a previous interview with CTV’s W5, he noted that China was able to stop the disease from spreading further by enacting “draconian” steps: self-isolation, mass quarantine and physical distancing measures.
He says both federal and provincial officials are taking the right steps to ensure the safety of Canadians, encouraging physical distancing measures and even shutting down provincial borders.
Our biggest challenge, he says, will be diagnosing and isolating mild cases of the disease to stop its rapid transmission.
“The only areas that have successfully managed to keep the numbers down have really been east Asia… China, Korea, Singapore. In all of these places what they did was make sure that they effectively isolated everybody with the disease, whether it was mild or serious disease, because they’re both going to spread the virus,” he said.
“You’ve got to do is take the heat out of this thing and that’s how they did it.”
Aylward says because the virus spreads so rapidly, the steps countries take to flatten the curve need to be equally as aggressive -- something he admits is hard for the public to understand.
“Your real goal at this point is preventing your health services from being overwhelmed so you can take care of the seriously sick and save as many lives as possible,” he noted.
As of Sunday morning, more than 5,600 people in Canada have been infected with the virus and 61 have died.