As much of Canada continues to practice social distancing in an effort to flatten the curve and combat the COVID-19 pandemic, many are wondering how long these extreme measures will last.
And while there’s no straight answer to this looming question just yet, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says we have to practice social distancing and implement closures for weeks or even months.
Speaking at a press conference outside Rideau Cottage in Ottawa this morning, the PM warned of the potential for these measures to remain in place for quite some time.
“We are going to continue to follow the best recommendations from experts. We’ve heard anything from weeks to months,” he said.
“We know this is a difficult and extraordinary time in which Canadians are taking difficult and extraordinary measures. We’ll continue to do that until Canadians are safe.”
And though the timeline may sound extreme, it’s what many experts seem to be reiterating.
University of Toronto-led research suggests that extreme measures will have to remain in place for months, not weeks, if we want to give our healthcare system a fighting chance at coping with this pandemic, according to The Toronto Star.
“Outbreak modelling shows that four weeks of intensive social distancing interventions will be insufficient to suppress a sharp rise in new cases, hospitalizations, and critically ill patients in intensive care,” The Star’s article on the subject explains.
“The disruptive measures must continue for more than six months to slash the size of the epidemic peak by more than half and delay it long enough that a vaccine might become available, the model found.”
And Dr. Jason Kindrachuk, an assistant professor and Canada Research Chair in emerging viruses at the University of Manitoba, told Global News that some recent research models have predicted that this outbreak (along with the extreme measures to combat it) could last upwards of 12 months.
Still, Dr. Kindrachuk acknowledged that there is no “definitive timeline.”
But in the U.S., experts are predicting a similar (if not more extreme) situation.
Adam Kucharski, an epidemiologist at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine and author of The Rules of Contagion, a book on how outbreaks spread, told Vox he believes people aren’t aware of just how long these measures could be in place.
“I think this idea … that if you close schools and shut restaurants for a couple of weeks, you solve the problem and get back to normal life — that’s not what’s going to happen,” he said.
“The main message that isn’t getting across to a lot of people is just how long we might be in this for.”
Experts are also acknowledging that it’s simply too soon to know for sure how long the world will remain at a standstill — but for now, all we can do is listen to those in charge, wash our hands and stay home.