Relaxing COVID-19 measures in some provinces could be a challenge for others: experts

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Infectious disease experts say provinces wishing to relax COVID-19 restrictions must take their neighbors into account.

Prince Edward Island, where the number of cases is low, aims to ease the measures put in place to slow the spread in late April and reopen businesses in mid-May.

The Saskatchewan government is expected to release a plan on Thursday for how certain businesses and services could resume next month if the number of cases remains low.

Dr. Craig Jenne, an infectious disease researcher at the University of Calgary, said that easing restrictions in one province may present challenges for others.

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“Many provinces in Canada do not have rigid borders,” he said in an interview with The Canadian Press. “Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba – we are not exactly islands where we can interrupt travel between provinces.

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“We’re going to have to make sure we’re on the same page with this. “

As of Wednesday, Saskatchewan had registered 326 cases, including four deaths, but less than 20% of the cases were considered active.

The province’s chief medical officer of health has said that any relaxation of the restrictions should be done with care.

Next door, in Alberta, there are more than 3,000 cases, including 66 deaths.










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Dr. Stephanie Smith, associate professor of infectious diseases at the University of Alberta, said it may be wise for provinces with low caseloads to consider abandoning COVID measures.

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“When they do, the most important thing is that they always have the ability to identify new cases and seek new contacts,” she said. “(They need) really robust testing and traceability so you can identify any new patient and make sure they are really self-isolating.

“It is important to avoid ending up in an uncontrolled situation. “

Jenne added that the outbreaks in High River, Alberta, and several long-term care homes show how quickly a situation can change once the new coronavirus begins to spread.

“As soon as we lower our vigilance in screening and isolation … we will see a peak in Canadian communities, we will see an increase in cases, we will see an increase in hospitalizations and, unfortunately, we will see an increase in deaths once as these hot spots start to appear. ”

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For example, an outbreak in Imperial Oil’s oil sands project in northeast Alberta has been linked to cases in Saskatchewan, British Columbia, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia.

“This virus does not travel through the air,” said Jenne. “It moves on people and the more people move between provincial borders and even within their own community, this is how this virus moves.”

Jenne and Smith said that this is why social distance has been so effective in reducing the number of cases in Canada.

Each province and territory has different approaches to limit the spread of COVID-19.

Manitoba has set up checkpoints on major highways to help inform travelers of public health measures in place.

Some jurisdictions such as New Brunswick and the northern territories have prohibited non-residents from entering or require anyone coming to the province to self-isolate for up to 14 days.










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Valorie Crooks, a geographer specializing in health services research at Simon Fraser University, said it would be difficult to control movement across provincial borders.

“This raises a lot of questions about how you apply it and what types of capacities you have to apply the measures you put in place,” she said.

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Crooks added that it would be easier to protect the people of the North or Canadian islands, but that it is simply not practical to patrol on all roads between the provinces.

The two infectious disease experts said closing the border with the United States was an effective tool, but Jenne noted that it was not a perfect solution.

“It has to be done in concert with everything else, including high levels of screening, contract-finding and self-isolation within communities,” said the professor.

“Closing a border alone is really a false sense of security if it is not combined with enhanced measures.”

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© 2020 The Canadian Press



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