Health officials looking at more high-tech methods to track spread of COVID-19 in Canada

Posted In: News Date:Apr 3rd, 2020

Increasingly frustrated health officials say they are prepared to take more aggressive measures to track and contain people with COVID-19 as the number of sick and dead continues to soar.

And that could involve employing some of the digital and mobile strategies seen in countries including Singapore and South Korea where suppression has been more successful, they suggest with caveats.

All of this is under review by various public health bodies, but a York University expert in infectious disease modelling warns that delayed action risks allowing the virus to continue its rapid spread, and force even more intense physical distancing measures.

That may be the painful lesson Canada needs to learn, said Jianhong Wu, an experienced modeller who has led multiple national projects on SARS, pandemic influenza, and immunization evaluation.

"Every country has had to go through this first before they learned how serious it is," said Wu, a distinguished research professor whose work includes analysis of epidemic data in Wuhan, China, where the virus was first detected late last year.

The argument for more stringent contact tracing was laid bare in a directive from Ontario's chief medical officer of health this week. Dr. David Williams instructed the province's public health units to use their authority to isolate COVID-19 cases and anyone with whom those infected people came into close contact.