Also known as the “family bubble” or “new bubble,” the measure essentially allows two households to connect, giving people a chance to socialize and interact with others.
New Brunswick was the first to launch the idea. It is one of the first steps the province is taking in its economic recovery plan while limiting the spread of the coronavirus.
Rules apply. Public health officials have stressed that households are not interchangeable. Once you combine two households, that’s how it stays. The decision to join the bubbles must also be approved by both households.
The measure also recently appeared in the plan to reopen Newfoundland and Labrador.
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“I hope this will help reduce some of the social isolation we all feel,” said the province’s chief medical officer, Dr. Janice Fitzgerald. “Especially those who live alone. “
While this is a “smart” way to move forward with many benefits for families, it needs to be contextualized with where and when it is applied, said Dr. Isaac Bogoch, specialist in infectious diseases at the Toronto General Hospital.
“Timing is everything,” he said. “Some provinces are more advanced or have not experienced the same degree of pandemic that affects them. These provinces are much better prepared for community transmission than other places. “
New Brunswick recorded 118 cases of virus and no deaths as of May 1. Newfoundland and Labrador is slightly higher, with 258 cases and three deaths. The two provinces pale in comparison to the more populated and denser regions of the country, such as Ontario and Quebec, which have more than 16,600 and 27,500 cases, respectively.
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But the approach could very well drift to the hardest-hit provinces as they control the number of cases and rates of community transmission, said Bogoch.
Manitoba’s family bubble is not yet expanding
The “bubble strategy” is not yet in the plans for Manitoba, where health orders have eased somewhat. In Ontario, which has presented a phased plan with no timelines, the idea is on their radar. Their chief medical officer of health, Dr. David Williams, said his team of experts will monitor the situation elsewhere before advising him.
“It is premature to do so, say, in Quebec right now. But in New Brunswick and Newfoundland, they don’t just flip a switch and suddenly reduce all of their public health restrictions, “said Bogoch.
“This is a progressive step. It’s measured. ”
There are obvious benefits for families, added Bogoch. Concerns have been raised about child care as the provinces outline their unique plans to relax the restrictions. Some businesses and services will reopen soon, but schools are expected to remain closed and summer is fast approaching.
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Linking two households can alleviate some of these stresses, said Craig Janes, director of the School of Public Health and Health Systems at the University of Waterloo.
“We probably saw a lot of them anyway, informally. I know people here in Waterloo who are separated from their spouse or partner and the children are going back and forth, ”he said.
“The idea is to allow a little more contact between households that could normally be in contact.”
But there are serious risks to consider, he said, because “not all bubbles will be the same. “
Vulnerable people – especially the elderly – are more likely to contract the virus and are more likely to face more serious consequences.
While it may seem like a good idea to bring grandmother and grandfather into your home, some “common sense” is necessary before making a decision, said Janes.
“It depends on the context. If I bring my grandparents home and things reopen, then I go back to work, it will increase the risk for people at home. The disease is transmitted from person to person, so the more you increase the number of contacts, the greater the risk, “he said. “Under these circumstances, I would think twice about developing myself.”
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Double bubbling is an approach that Canada has taken from New Zealand. The country is also considering creating travel bubbles, based on the same concept, after seeing a steady decrease in COVID-19 cases.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, however, warned New Zealanders against bringing too many people into their extended family “bubbles”.
“We open the economy, but we do not open the social life of people,” she said.
Fitzgerald, N.L.’s best doctor, issued the same warning: “The fewer interactions outside of your bubble, the better. “
In the end, the same rules apply if you choose to double your bubble, said Bogoch. Good hand hygiene and continuous physical distance from those not in your related households will keep the risk of contracting the virus low and your family members safe.
“You should always do everything you can to prevent the infection from entering the household, as it now affects not one, but two households.”
–With files from the Canadian Press
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