B.C. won't follow Saskatchewan's plan
Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry says she will not follow Saskatchewan's COVID-19 reopening plan that has stages triggered by vaccination rates.
On Sunday, Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe announced more than 70 per cent of residents over 40 had received a first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, triggering the first step of the provincial reopening plan.
This means that on May 30 restaurants and bars in Saskatchewan can open, places of worship can fill to 30 per cent capacity and group fitness classes can resume. The plan could see the province lift most of its public health restrictions as early as mid-July, with the gradual easing of restrictions based on how many people in given age cohorts have received their first dose of a vaccine.
Henry said that she and other health officials were surprised by Saskatchewan's move.
“I will say that Saskatchewan's plan came as a little bit of a surprise to most of my colleagues, our (Council of Chief Medical Officers of Health) colleagues and we did have an ongoing discussion about that yesterday on our usual Sunday call,” Henry said.
“We do need to look at a number of different factors (for reopening) so it's not going to be just based on immunization, but that will be one of the important factors. I think we can look at what Saskatchewan has, what the U.K. has put out, the modelling we've seen both here in B.C. but also nationally, that shows once you get to a certain level of immunization, of adults in particular, we start to see a rapid decrease in transmission. We will be looking at all of those things.”
In the U.K. on Monday the country's four chief medical officers downgraded the COVID-19 alert level from four to three, meaning that the epidemic is in “general circulation” but transmission is no longer high or rising exponentially.
This triggered the next level of easing restrictions, so that as of May 19 people are allowed to meet indoors at pubs, restaurants and cinemas as a group of six or as two households. Children's play areas can reopen, and events at sports stadiums and conference centres can go ahead. Hotels can reopen.
More than two-thirds of all adults in the U.K. have received a vaccination, and more than 17 million have had a second dose.
On Monday, Saskatchewan reported 147 new cases of COVID -19, with 2,141 active cases.
Henry has not set a timetable or any metrics that would trigger a relaxation of restrictions in B.C.
Until May 25 at least, no one is allowed to travel on non-essential business within B.C.'s three regions as defined by health authority boundaries. The RCMP has road checks on four B.C. highways to enforce this.
“Part of our restart plan will be how do we gradually go back to those important things that we've missed in our lives over this past year?” Henry said.
“Slowly, recognizing that not everybody's risk tolerance is the same as we need to get more comfortable with larger numbers doing more things in more places.”
Henry said COVID-19 would likely be around for years.
“There may be a time when it turns into yet another respiratory virus that doesn't cause severe illness in most people and that's where we hope to get with immunization,” she said.