Canada passes 100,000 COVID-19 cases, but how many left unrecorded?

By | June 18, 2020

TORONTO — Canada has officially recorded more than 100,000 cases of COVID-19 as provinces ramp up testing to understand the full burden of infection in the country.

Health officials in Ontario announced 173 new cases of the novel coronavirus on Thursday morning, bringing the total number of confirmed infections in Canada to 100,026.

But the new figure isn’t particularly meaningful, says Dr. Sandy Buchman, a palliative care physician in Toronto and the president of the Canadian Medical Association.

“It may look like a milestone but I don’t think that it’s really an accurate number,” he told CTVNews.ca during a phone interview earlier this month. “Testing wasn’t adequate for a long time. Hopefully we’re getting there now, but compared to other countries, we’re not there.”

Since the disease can result in very mild symptoms or asymptomatic cases, health experts believe there are many more cases than have been officially logged. Last month, a group of Montreal researchers identified what it called “widespread undiagnosed COVID-19 infection” and estimated that there were already more than 500,000 infections in Canada by late April, a number that was more than 14 times higher than official records at the time. Researchers credit variances in the frequency of testing across the country for the discrepancies. 

Officials in Canada have performed nearly 2,255,000 tests as of June 17.

Early in the pandemic, COVID-19 testing kits were being reserved for health-care workers, those who had travelled abroad and people with serious symptoms. In recent weeks, testing availability has expanded to those with more mild symptoms around the country, but questions remain as to whether enough people are visiting provincial testing centres.

It has been nearly 20 weeks since Ontario recorded the country’s first presumptive case of the virus, which broke out in China late last year. It has since infected more than eight million people and killed more than 440,000 worldwide, including more than 8,250 in Canada. Health officials have confirmed more than 62,200 recoveries across Canada.

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