With the increased vaccine supply, virtually all Canadians will have access to at least one dose of vaccine by June. Dr Theresa Tam said an extra layer of protection will ease some of the more stringent social distancing measures – but Canadians must continue to avoid indoor gatherings altogether until more people are fully vaccinated. Tam said a more social summer will depend on Canadians staying apart for the rest of the spring. The number of cases is still too high and vaccination coverage too low to remove public health measures at present, she said. Even partially vaccinated people should stay away from others until there is greater immunization coverage in the coming weeks.
Tam said provinces should only start lifting public health restrictions after 75% of all adults have received at least one dose of the vaccine and 20% are fully immunized. As of Friday, 50 percent of Canadian adults had received a single injection.
After reaching that 75% milestone, she said, Canadians can safely enjoy camping, hiking, picnics, small backyard barbecues and drinks on a patio.
Canadians should always avoid all crowds, Tam said, and partially vaccinated people should continue to practice social distancing and wear a mask when in public.
“The vaccines will be a major help in keeping your levels low and will point you to a future that includes some of those activities that we have hoped for without a resurgence occurring,” Tam said.
“People with one dose should feel safer that they are better protected, but you need to get that second dose for maximum protection. “
Asked why Canada has set the bar so high for removing some of the toughest public health measures, Tam said it will ultimately be up to the provinces and territories to decide when social and economy may return to something closer to normal.
Tam said the UK is reopening with lower vaccination rates because it managed to “crush” the third wave and has fewer cases than Canada.
Beyond vaccination measures, she said, jurisdictions should monitor their retransmission figures – figures that show how prevalent COVID-19 is in their communities – before reopening.
“You have to let epidemiology and data drive the slow reopening measures at the local level,” she said.
In the fall – once immunization coverage becomes more widespread and 75% of all eligible Canadians receive the two necessary doses – restrictions on higher education, indoor sports and family reunions can be lifted , said Health Minister Patty Hajdu.
“We should be able to do more indoor activities with people outside our home,” she said. “More people need to be vaccinated so that we can ease the restrictions. “