• The INSPQ released two scenarios, one optimistic and one pessimistic, for the progression of the outbreak in Quebec depending on the level of social distancing in the general population.
  • The projections represent a "general," not confirmed, "deconfinement scenario," but they nonetheless demonstrate just how high the stakes are.

As the government prepares to release plans for a gradual reopening of schools and businesses, public health officials are getting ready, as well. On April 25, the Institut national de santé publique (INSPQ) produced two general scenarios for the progression of the COVID-19 outbreak in Quebec. The scenarios, one optimistic and one pessimistic, show how many cases and deaths there could be by the end of the summer depending on the level of social distancing efforts, which Premier Legault has said will have to persist for "months."

The optimistic scenario "assumes a reduction in contacts in the population of more than 65%," the pessimistic, "a reduction in population contacts of 50 to 64%."

The results would differ dramatically, the projections show, even if current measures are maintained.

"Under the optimistic scenario, the number of new symptomatic cases and deaths in the general population declines markedly by the end of August," the INSPQ writes.

"In the pessimistic scenario, the number of new symptomatic cases and deaths continues to increase slowly by the end of August."

A possible loosening of measures would produce even more divergent results.

Assuming a "relaxation that would lead to an increase in contacts in the population of 10 to 20% from May 11," the optimistic scenario shows a minimal impact on the number of cases and deaths.

But "under the pessimistic scenario, there is a risk of a rapid increase in new cases and deaths," potentially reaching an average of over 100 deaths per day in July, one graph shows.

The INSPQ notes that "these results are preliminary and represent a general relaxation scenario" which has yet to be confirmed

The Institut is "currently looking at different specific relaxation strategies." 

The graphs nevertheless illustrate the high stakes of the coming months.

Echoing what Premier Legault indicated on April 23, the INSPQ concludes it will be essential to continuously monitor the effects of deconfinement on the population once it begins.

They will also assess the progression of population immunity and keep renewing their scenarios based on data and models.

But it warns that "there is little room for manoeuvre to gradually relax containment measures while minimizing the risks to the health of the population."

"Ongoing monitoring is essential to provide an accurate picture and useful modelling for decision-making to avoid a second wave."

The Institut explains that "the physical distancing strategy implemented quickly in Quebec has been successful in the general population," possibly saving "tens of thousands of lives."

The deconfinement process will determine whether those results can be maintained.

Stay tuned for more news.

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