Federal public health agency urges provinces and territories to stay the course on restrictions until three-quarters of eligible population receive first vaccine and 20% receive second dose, benchmark that some provinces are shying away as they plan their reopening.
New modeling released by the agency on Friday shows the steady decline in severe COVID-19 cases and outcomes has continued, although Manitoba remains an outlier. But that also comes with a warning that reopening too soon, as was done after the second wave peaked last winter, could lead to a further increase in cases.
“The good news is that nationally, we expect the third wave to continue to decline,” Chief Public Health Officer Theresa Tam said on Friday, but added that the trend towards the decline is only guaranteed if the current measures are maintained and people do not. increase their contacts.
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“Although this forecast is very encouraging, it reaffirms that now is not the time to relax our measures. If the measures are relaxed, increasing the number of in-person contacts at the community level, a resurgence is likely, ”Dr Tam said as she released new COVID-19 modeling.
If the current level of person-to-person contact remains unchanged, modeling shows that the daily number of new cases will fall below the low between wave two and wave three. But that trend will reverse if contacts increase, Dr Tam noted, citing the UK example as a path Canada should try to follow. In Britain, the government waited to reopen until the country “hits the bottom of its very big wave,” she said.
Canada is not there yet, said Dr Tam. The daily number of cases in Canada is down almost two-thirds from its peak and the number of cases is still much higher than the low levels seen last summer. At the height of the third wave in April, the number of daily cases rose to more than 9,500, according to the Globe and Mail tracking – by Friday that number had fallen to 3,196.
Dr Tam acknowledged that there are regional differences in the epidemic. But she stressed that the increased interactions should be limited to outdoor spaces, even after Canada reaches 75 percent coverage for the first dose and 20 percent for the second dose. Once Canada has reached this mark, “the most restrictive public health measures, such as blockages, could be lifted this summer, ”Dr Tam said.
“Although we still had to maintain individual precautions such as masking and spacing Around non-members of the household, we can meet in small groups outdoors, dine on restaurant terraces and enjoy outdoor activities in complete safety.
The federal government does not have jurisdiction over physical distancing rules, and several provinces ignore the advice of the federal agency. Additionally, Alberta, British Columbia and Saskatchewan have not factored in second dose coverage at all in their plans to reopen.
Already on Tuesday, British Columbia authorized the resumption of gatherings and indoor meals. As of Friday, 63% of those 12 and over had received at least one dose of the vaccine. In Saskatchewan, indoor dining will resume on Sunday. The province said on Friday that 64% of people 18 and older had received at least one vaccine.
And Quebec, with 58 percent of its population already vaccinated, is allowing 2,500 people to attend the NHL playoff game in person on Saturday to watch the Montreal Canadiens take on the Toronto Maple Leafs. In a press release, the Canadiens said fans over the age of 5 will wear masks at the event.
Asked about the more optimistic approach taken by some premiers, Dr Tam urged provinces to be cautious.
“I’m advocating a rather cautious approach because we saw on that same curve what happened when we started to relax measures on this second wave going down,” she told reporters on Friday.
“We have had a few experiences in the past that have made us want to be more careful. It is recommended to do this slowly, gradually. “
Alberta Premier Jason Kenney on Wednesday presented a phased plan that results in the lifting of all COVID-19 measures – including a province-wide mask mandate, limits to indoor gatherings and external and corporate constraints – two weeks after 70% of eligible Albertans receive at least one dose of the vaccine.
Ontario also plans to allow indoor activities before reaching the federal immunization threshold, but it is much closer to that goal than other provinces. Premier Doug Ford’s plan to expand indoor gatherings once the province reaches 70% coverage for the first dose and 20% for the second dose.
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