When Niagara enters the next phase of economic recovery, it will depend entirely on the behavior of residents to prevent a return to pandemic closings and business closings, said Niagara’s acting medical officer of health.
Dr. Mustafa Hirji said moving from step 2 of the provincial government plan – where Niagara is currently located – to step 3 is a much bigger leap than moving from step 1 to step 2 a month ago.
He said that although Stage 3 places constraints on certain activities, many restrictions that close businesses and social activities are lifted.
“Our numbers (COVID-19) are good because of the really hard work of many people who do the right thing, distance themselves physically and practice good hand hygiene,” said Hirji. “But it’s also because the restrictions imposed by the government separated people. When these are lifted, which will increase our risk, it will be up to all of us to continue to do whatever is necessary to ensure that we do not see an increase in cases. “
Hirji said that while it is not clear how the Ontario government decides which regions to move forward, he believes Niagara is ready for step 3.
The new daily number of cases in Niagara has been in single digit for over a month. There were no new confirmed cases or deaths related to COVID-19 on Wednesday, leaving the historic total number of cases at 783. Niagara has had several days of zero cases in recent weeks, despite three active outbreaks in local long-term care homes.
Hirji said restrictions that limit what people can do in the past three months have helped stop the spread of the new coronavirus.
Whether the situation continues will depend on the residents of Niagara.
“My concern is that people will consider it to mean that the threat is over and that it will lead to complacency,” he said. “The truth is that we are not done with a long-term plan. “
When the provincial government announced on Monday that certain regions were moving to phase three, Ontario Health Minister Christie Elliott said on Monday that no region would exceed stage 3 for the foreseeable future. She also said that if things get worse, some areas will be remote.
“It depends on us,” said Hirji. “Without these restrictions, it will be really up to everyone in Niagara to make sure that we limit the spread of the virus.”
Although stage 3 reopens many businesses closed since March, it nevertheless limits certain activities.
The gatherings will be limited to groups of 50 people inside and 100 people outside. However, Hirji said the stipulation is that in these gatherings, people stay two meters apart.
“The only people you can be in close contact with are your social circle of 10 people,” he said. “Beyond that, you have to keep physically moving away, continue hand hygiene and wear face covers. “
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Niagara was not included in the provincial government’s first round of Stage 3 regions, nor was it among the first to adopt Stage 2.
However, given the small number of Niagara cases and the flattened infection rate curve, Hirji expects the government to be able to announce Stage 3 for the region on Monday, with implementation on July 24.