Technical Report

OCLA Report 2020-1: Criticism of Government Response to COVID-19 in Canada

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Abstract

We review the scientific literature about general-population-lockdown and social-distancing measures, which is relevant to mitigation policy in Canada. Federal and provincial Canadian government responses to and communications about COVID-19 have been irresponsible. The latest research implies that the government interventions to “flatten the curve” risk causing significant additional cumulative COVID-19 deaths, due to seasonal driving of transmissibility and delayed societal immunity. (OCLA Report 2020-1 - Ontario Civil Liberties Association)

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Author Summary The origin of seasonality in influenza transmission is both of palpable public health importance and basic scientific interest. Here, we present statistical analyses and a mathematical model of epidemic influenza transmission that provide strong epidemiological evidence for the hypothesis that absolute humidity (AH) drives seasonal variations of influenza transmission in temperate regions. We show that the onset of individual wintertime influenza epidemics is associated with anomalously low AH conditions throughout the United States. In addition, we use AH to modulate the basic reproductive number of influenza within a mathematical model of influenza transmission and compare these simulations with observed excess pneumonia and influenza mortality. These simulations capture key details of the observed seasonal cycle of influenza throughout the US. The results indicate that AH affects both the seasonality of influenza incidence and the timing of individual wintertime influenza outbreaks in temperate regions. The association of anomalously low AH conditions with the onset of wintertime influenza outbreaks suggests that skillful, short-term probabilistic forecasts of epidemic influenza could be developed.
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Severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) caused by a newly identified coronavirus (SARS-CoV) is a serious emerging human infectious disease. In this report, we immunized ferrets (Mustela putorius furo) with recombinant modified vaccinia virus Ankara (rMVA) expressing the SARS-CoV spike (S) protein. Immunized ferrets developed a more rapid and vigorous neutralizing antibody response than control animals after challenge with SARS-CoV; however, they also exhibited strong inflammatory responses in liver tissue. Inflammation in control animals exposed to SARS-CoV was relatively mild. Thus, our data suggest that vaccination with rMVA expressing SARS-CoV S protein is associated with enhanced hepatitis.
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Development of strategies for mitigating the severity of a new influenza pandemic is now a top global public health priority. Influenza prevention and containment strategies can be considered under the broad categories of antiviral, vaccine and non-pharmaceutical (case isolation, household quarantine, school or workplace closure, restrictions on travel) measures. Mathematical models are powerful tools for exploring this complex landscape of intervention strategies and quantifying the potential costs and benefits of different options. Here we use a large-scale epidemic simulation to examine intervention options should initial containment of a novel influenza outbreak fail, using Great Britain and the United States as examples. We find that border restrictions and/or internal travel restrictions are unlikely to delay spread by more than 2-3 weeks unless more than 99% effective. School closure during the peak of a pandemic can reduce peak attack rates by up to 40%, but has little impact on overall attack rates, whereas case isolation or household quarantine could have a significant impact, if feasible. Treatment of clinical cases can reduce transmission, but only if antivirals are given within a day of symptoms starting. Given enough drugs for 50% of the population, household-based prophylaxis coupled with reactive school closure could reduce clinical attack rates by 40-50%. More widespread prophylaxis would be even more logistically challenging but might reduce attack rates by over 75%. Vaccine stockpiled in advance of a pandemic could significantly reduce attack rates even if of low efficacy. Estimates of policy effectiveness will change if the characteristics of a future pandemic strain differ substantially from those seen in past pandemics.
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BACKGROUND: Travel restrictions were implementeded on an unprecedented scale in 2015 in Sierra Leone to contain and eliminate Ebola virus disease. However, the impact of epidemic travel restrictions on mobility itself remains difficult to measure with traditional methods. New 'big data' approaches using mobile phone data can provide, in near real-time, the type of information needed to guide and evaluate control measures. METHODS: We analysed anonymous mobile phone call detail records (CDRs) from a leading operator in Sierra Leone between 20 March and 1 July in 2015. We used an anomaly detection algorithm to assess changes in travel during a national 'stay at home' lockdown from 27 to 29 March. To measure the magnitude of these changes and to assess effect modification by region and historical Ebola burden, we performed a time series analysis and a crossover analysis. RESULTS: Routinely collected mobile phone data revealed a dramatic reduction in human mobility during a 3-day lockdown in Sierra Leone. The number of individuals relocating between chiefdoms decreased by 31% within 15 km, by 46% for 15-30 km and by 76% for distances greater than 30 km. This effect was highly heterogeneous in space, with higher impact in regions with higher Ebola incidence. Travel quickly returned to normal patterns after the restrictions were lifted. CONCLUSIONS: The effects of travel restrictions on mobility can be large, targeted and measurable in near real-time. With appropriate anonymization protocols, mobile phone data should play a central role in guiding and monitoring interventions for epidemic containment.
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Ebola virus causes a severe haemorrhagic fever in humans with high case fatality and significant epidemic potential. The 2013–2016 outbreak in West Africa was unprecedented in scale, being larger than all previous outbreaks combined, with 28 646 reported cases and 11 323 reported deaths. It was also unique in its geographical distribution and multicountry spread. It is vital that the lessons learned from the world's largest Ebola outbreak are not lost. This article aims to provide a detailed description of the evolution of the outbreak. We contextualize this outbreak in relation to previous Ebola outbreaks and outline the theories regarding its origins and emergence. The outbreak is described by country, in chronological order, including epidemiological parameters and implementation of outbreak containment strategies. We then summarize the factors that led to rapid and extensive propagation, as well as highlight the key successes, failures and lessons learned from this outbreak and the response. This article is part of the themed issue ‘The 2013–2016 West African Ebola epidemic: data, decision-making and disease control’.
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In Hong Kong, kindergartens and primary schools were closed when local transmission of pandemic (H1N1) 2009 was identified. Secondary schools closed for summer vacation shortly afterwards. By fitting a model of reporting and transmission to case data, we estimated that transmission was reduced approximately 25% when secondary schools closed.
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In response to WHO raising the influenza pandemic alert level from phase five to phase six, health officials around the world are carefully reviewing pandemic mitigation protocols. School closure (also called class dismissal in North America) is a non-pharmaceutical intervention that is commonly suggested for mitigating influenza pandemics. Health officials taking the decision to close schools must weigh the potential health benefits of reducing transmission and thus case numbers against high economic and social costs, difficult ethical issues, and the possible disruption of key services such as health care. Also, if schools are expected to close as a deliberate policy option, or just because of high levels of staff absenteeism, it is important to plan to mitigate the negative features of closure. In this context, there is still debate about if, when, and how school closure policy should be used. In this Review, we take a multidisciplinary and holistic perspective and review the multiple aspects of school closure as a public health policy. Implications for the mitigation of the swine-origin influenza A H1N1 pandemic are also discussed.
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The rapid containment of the Singapore severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) outbreak in 2003 involved the introduction of several stringent control measures. These measures had a profound impact on the healthcare system and community, and were associated with significant disruptions to normal life, business and social intercourse. An assessment of the relative effectiveness of the various control measures is critical in preparing for future outbreaks of a similar nature. The very "wide-net" surveillance, isolation and quarantine policy adopted was effective in ensuring progressively earlier isolation of probable SARS cases. However, it resulted in nearly 8000 contacts being put on home quarantine and 4300 on telephone surveillance, with 58 individuals eventually being diagnosed with probable SARS. A key challenge is to develop very rapid and highly sensitive tests for SARS infection, which would substantially reduce the numbers of individuals that need to be quarantined without decreasing the effectiveness of the measure. Daily temperature monitoring of all healthcare workers (HCWs) in hospitals was useful for early identification of HCWs with SARS. However, daily temperature screening of children in schools failed to pick up any SARS cases. Similarly, temperature screening at the airport and other points of entry did not yield any SARS cases. Nevertheless, the latter 2 measures probably helped to reassure the public that schools and the community were safe during the SARS outbreak. Strong political leadership and effective command, control and coordination of responses were critical factors for the containment of the outbreak.
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