B.C.’s top doctor say the province could begin lifting social contact restrictions in the province in the middle of May, but warns that life won’t be the same until there is a vaccine for the novel coronavirus, COVID-19.
“Like we have done already, we are going to develop an evidence-based, thoughtful plan for our way forward,” provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said during a news conference on Friday (April 17).
“It is essential that everyone in B.C. continue to practise what we have been doing: our physical distancing for the near future.”
B.C. saw its first case of the novel coronavirus in January, after a traveller returned to the province from overseas.
Since then, a number of restrictions have been put in place to help curb the spread of COVID-19 include closing nightclubs and bars, a ban on gatherings of more than 50 attendees and restricting restaurants to delivery and take-out services only.
These measures have forced the shutter of a number of businesses, parks and campgrounds, as well as the closure of private and public schools.
Henry said health officials are looking at a variety of different way restrictions could be lifted, adding that nothing specific has been decided.
“What we need to focus on in the coming weeks and months, is just the right amount of restriction so that we don’t end up having those explosive growths [in cases], so we don’t end up overwhelming our health care system,” Henry said, warning that life will not go back to the way it was in December.
The latest details on the timeline for when British Columbians can expect some return of normalcy to their daily lives come as the province released its latest modelling numbers, which show that restrictions in place are flattening the curve.
Health officials released a number of statistics Friday that highlight how the coronavirus has evolved in the province, as well as how physical distancing has helped flatten the curve of new cases.
Those statistics included the use of a “stringency index,” which was developed at University of Oxford, to see how B.C.’s various measures have kept people from transmitting this virus from person to person compare to those implemented in Italy and South Korea – two countries who have seen varying results from protocols.
Health officials have warned that any ease of physical distancing protocols could be tightened back up in the fall, and at least some measures will be in place indefinitely, until a vaccine is created for the respiratory virus.
The province will be creating new modelling in coming weeks to serve as a guide on which restrictions can be lifted.
“What we really need is a vaccine and it is going to be some time before we get a vaccine,” Henry said.
“Our goal is to move forward is to control transmission and growth of any new cases of COVID-19 in our community and limiting any unintended consequences of these public health measures that we’ve put in place.”