No end in sight on COVID measures, but maybe a summer reprieve

By Fran Yanor, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter


Neither the Health Minister nor the Provincial Health Officer will commit to an end date of the strict public health measures currently in effect, but the summer holds some possibility.

“I said a week ago was there was zero chance, none, that any of the orders would be varied by the end of April,” said Health Minister Adrian Dix. “What it looks like in May, or June, or July, is harder to say.”

A lot depends on how committed people are to following current health measures and if they put in a 100 per cent effort to bend the infection rate curve, Dix said. Either way, “I think we’re into this for a long time.”

Infectious diseases come in waves; they have peaks; and eventually they come down, said Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry.

“The next few weeks are really, really critical,” she said.“We need to hold the course right now.”  Slowing the transmission of the virus through social distancing will buy time for public health to investigate and test in the communities to find the outbreaks, mitigating any potential stampede to the hospitals, and allow those who get sick access to the health resources they need.

“That’s where we are right now,” said Henry. “Realistically, we are going to be in some form of having to monitor and prevent transmission of this virus until we have a vaccine, or until enough of the population is immune to it that it’s no longer infecting people.”

Herd immunity is the concept of having enough people in a society who have been infected and developed immunity that they break the vectors of transmission, essentially protecting those without immunity. One source from the British Society of Immunology, estimated 60 to 80 per cent of the population will eventually be infected by COVID-19. No one knows for sure how much of the population would have to get COVID-19 to reach the herd immunity threshold.

“We know that (it’s) a very high number, so a vaccine is something that we need to really, really push for,” said Henry.

The federal government invested nearly $27 million to fund coronavirus research in Canada, plus an additional $275 million ‘enhance research capacity on vaccine and antiviral development and clinical trials,’ around the world including Canada, according to the Federal Government website.

“I haven’t given up entirely the hope that we might get a reprieve during the summer, as we do with influenza and some of the other respiratory viruses,” said Henry. “Although how much of a reprieve is yet to be seen.”

Henry said she is monitoring how the pandemic plays out in Australia and New Zealand as they pass through their autumn.

And after that, will be the task of preparing for a potential second wave of COVID-19 in the fall.

In the meantime, “Right now is our time to try and come together to support each other, if not physically, but at least to do that socially, and virtually,” Henry said.

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