Victoria – The imminent prospect of a second wave of COVID-19 this fall has led governments to carefully monitor daily infection rates as economies resume and students return to school.
Politicians and health officials say a widespread return to economic and social restrictions that shut down businesses and schools and canceled public events in March is not the preferred option, but there may be no other option.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said last week: “The last thing anyone wants is to once again have to shut down our economies and put our lives on hold to try to cope with a huge second wave.”
He stressed public vigilance to fight the epidemic, frequent hand washing, wearing masks and physical distancing, because “as we see with the rise in cases across the country, we are not out of the woods.”
Cynthia Carr, an epidemiologist in Winnipeg, said Canadians should prepare for further restrictions and lockdowns if COVID-19 cases continue to rise, even without the second wave arriving.
She said, “There is still a huge increase in cases related to the behavior and this gives the government a chance to go, well, what are we going to change now for the retransmission under control?” This is where the government will need to focus on.
British Columbia ordered the immediate closure of nightclubs and party halls last week after the number of daily COVID-19 cases was above 100, with many infections being traced to young people outside of social contact on occasions where alcohol was served.
Dr. Bonnie Henry, the county health official, has also ordered bars, pubs, lounges and restaurants to cut alcohol sales at 10 PM and close by 11 PM, unless they only serve food.
Henry said she took “extreme” measures in March to slow the infection, and closing nightclubs and halls is a necessary step now.
“I think we need to start rethinking what we need to do to pass us through over the next few months as a community together, and these are some of the things that we’ll need to put aside for now,” she said in. Press Conference.
Last week in Quebec, the government said the police could hand out tickets between $ 400 and $ 6000 to those without a face covering in indoor public places or on public transport.
The province also announced several measures in addition to fines, including banning karaoke and requiring bars to keep customer records as infection numbers soared.
Carr said that other public health officials will consider increasing restrictions to limit the transmission of COVID-19.
“The more the virus is given a greater chance to spread again, the more it takes this opportunity,” she said.
The arrival of a second wave of COVID-19 will cause widespread fear because it indicates that the virus has changed its behavior, said Carr, who is a private adviser advising governments and societies on health policy.
“This is where the scariest parts are,” she said. “If the virus begins to mutate, become different and significantly affect young people, for example.”
But Carr said increased restrictions are inevitable in the second wave or spike in COVID-19 cases.
Economics professor James Brander said politicians and health officials must carefully weigh the impact of further restrictions or lockdowns on the economy in the event of a second wave or higher infection rates.
“What you want are the hanging fruits,” said a public policy expert at the Sauder School of Business at the University of British Columbia.
Brander said governments were too harsh on the economy in March, and with hindsight, more targeted restriction options should now be considered, including closing bars, banning large gatherings and calling for more aggressive mask-wearing policies.
Carr said combating the epidemic involves reconciling three areas: health, economy and social welfare.
“A better decision is usually related to controlling transmission as much as possible so that economies can return to prosperity and people maintain social welfare.”
This report was first published by The Canadian Press on September 15, 2020.