Interrupt travel between provinces to control the spread of variants, experts say

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Interrupt travel between provinces to control the spread of variants, experts say


Experts are calling on federal and provincial governments to take action to curb interprovincial and international travel to stop the spread of worrying variants of COVID-19.
While strain B117 is responsible for much of the third wave in Ontario and elsewhere, the P1 variant, associated with Brazil, is booming in British Columbia and is spreading in Alberta and Ontario.

Early research in an unpaired preprinted study in Brazil suggested P1 is up to 2.5 times more transmissible that the original COVID strain and te BC Centre for Disease Control said the variant might be able to re-infect people who have previously had COVID-19.

Dr Srinivas Murthy, an infectious disease and intensive care physician in Vancouver and assistant professor of medicine at the University of British Columbia, said P1 is causing an alarming spike in British Columbia, filling intensive care units. He said the world is now looking at British Columbia as the center of the largest P1 outbreak outside of Brazil.

Dr Srinivas Murthy, associate professor in the Faculty of Medicine and Infectious Diseases and critical care specialist at UBC, says governments must act now to prevent the more transmissible P1 variant of COVID from spreading. (Submitted by Srinivas Murthy)

“I would say we are seeing exponential growth [of P1] right now, ”Murthy told Dr Brian Goldman, host of Art Noir White Coat and The dose. “It’s a race and I think it’s a race we’re losing. “

Interprovincial travel

Murthy said P1 is spread largely through interprovincial and international travel.

“I wouldn’t be surprised to see the spread going on [of P1] across the country outside the Atlantic provinces [which maintain a strict travel bubble] that interprovincial travel remains. ”

He said the time had come for provinces to limit travel to “absolutely essential” only and that the federal government should consider limiting domestic flights.

“I know our airlines continue to travel across the country. This should be questioned, ”Murthy said.

CBC has asked the office of Transport Minister Omar Alghabra for comment on the restriction on domestic travel and flights and has not received a response.

There is currently a patchwork of rules across the country around border crossing rules. While international travelers arriving in Canada must quarantine for three days at a designated hotel pending COVID test results and the remainder of their 14-day quarantine at home, domestic travelers in British Columbia and elsewhere other provinces are not required to quarantine, as they are in Manitoba and the Atlantic provinces. In Ontario, travelers from other provinces are “strongly advised” to self-quarantine for 14 days.

British Columbia Premier John Horgan faces increasing pressure to introduce travel restrictions for people who do not live in the province, as cases of COVID-19 increase in popular tourist destinations. 2:04

British Columbia Premier John Horgan has not ruled out travel and other restrictions. In January, Horgan sought legal advice on restricting travel to British Columbia, but said lawyers working for the provincial government told him he couldn’t legally restrict non-essential travel. We don’t know what would be different now.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau told CBC South dawn Wednesday, he supports provinces and territories that are closing their borders to stop the spread of COVID-19.

Provincial quarantine enforcement

Chris Graves agrees the rules for interprovincial travel need to be stricter, even if it means he is losing the income he desperately needs.

He owns the King’s Head Pub in Winnipeg and he’s tired of people from other provinces coming to Manitoba and ignoring the quarantine restrictions.

Chris Graves is the owner of King’s Head Pub in Winnipeg. He is frustrated with the number of out-of-province people he sees openly flouting Manitoba’s quarantine rules. (Submitted by Chris Graves)

If you are traveling to Manitoba from another province you must self-isolate for 14 days from the date of arrival.

Graves said many people ignore this rule. The pub requires everyone to show ID to prove they are from the same household and from Manitoba. Every day at least a few people come to the pub openly flouting the quarantine rules, he said.

On a recent sunny day, Graves sat on his patio and watched his staff turn down six people in a row, three couples – one couple had just arrived from British Columbia, another was from Saskatchewan and another did not show his identity card.

The vehicles stopped at a provincial checkpoint last year at the Manitoba-Ontario border, where officials are distributing information on COVID-19. Some Manitobans are calling on the government to better enforce restrictions on interprovincial travel. (Travis Golby / CBC)

“I need people to come to us. We have been wiped out. Six people could be a third to half of my labor cost that day. I could have used these clients. I don’t want to refuse them. “

But Graves said people need to follow the rules and stop the spread of COVID in order to avoid another lockdown.

“I cannot afford to be closed again. And I think it’s going to happen. I see the writing on the wall. “

Graves said it was frustrating that he and his staff were the police arm of the government and that quarantine rules needed to be better enforced – or Manitoba should consider blocking the province’s three major highways to prevent visitors from outside the province to enter.

International travel

Kelley Lee, Canada Research Chair in Global Health Governance at Simon Fraser University, said tighter travel restrictions between provinces, but also internationally, must be considered .

Lee is the co-author of a study on the effectiveness of travel restrictions in containing COVID-19.

Kelley Lee is Professor of Public Health at Simon Fraser University and Canada Research Chair in Global Health Governance. She says travel restrictions are helping to limit the spread of COVID. (Simon Fraser University)

“What we do know is that COVID and travel are inextricably linked … The less people travel locally, nationally and internationally, the less the virus and its variants spread.”

Lee said Canada’s border is particularly porous, calling the rules for international travel a “Swiss cheese policy” because it has many loopholes – such as allowing Americans to cross Canada into Alaska, or even allowing flights from global COVID hotspots.

“Since we have had such a loose international border policy, the provinces are left to deal with it. And then the communities are left to face it. You make your choices as to where the battlefront is. It means you are the foot soldier when you step out of your door then. ”

Health Canada announced this week that anyone who had been in Brazil in the two weeks prior to arriving in Canada “would be subject to enhanced screening measures,” but Lee would like the federal government to suspend all flights to Canada from. COVID hotspots like Brazil, like France is doing this week.

CBC asked Health Canada if it would consider a similar restriction and did not get a response.

Experts say there are too many loopholes that allow travelers to cross the closed border between the United States and Canada. (Christinne Muschi / Reuters)

Vaccines and P1

In the meantime, Srinivas Murthy’s advice is not to travel out of the province or overseas unless absolutely essential – and while travel restrictions help, he fears “the cat is already out of the country. bag in Canada ”.

Canadians need to ‘curl up’ for the next moment, he said, and do what we know works against COVID and its variants – stay home as much as possible, don’t socialize outside your home , wear a mask and social distancing.

Travelers wait at Toronto Pearson Airport. Some doctors say it’s time to limit interprovincial flights to stop the spread of COVID variants. (Evan Mitsui / CBC)

The good news? Despite initial concerns that existing vaccines might not work as well against P1, Murthy said all indications are that approved vaccines work against the strain and are only “somewhat less” effective against P1 than the strain of. ‘origin.

“Laboratory data shows that your antibody response to approved vaccines may be a little less than P1 compared to the original virus,” Murthy said. “What is likely is that they will provide you with some protection. “

So if Canada can step up vaccinations while Canadians follow public health guidelines, Murthy said there was hope we could push back P1 and other variants – and get back to some sort of normal. this summer.


Written and produced by Willow Smith.

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