Federal committee working on criteria to ease COVID-19 restrictions, says Canada’s top doctor

By Mike Hall, Sonia Aslam and The Canadian Press

OTTAWA (NEWS 1130) — Canada’s public health officer says a special advisory committee on COVID-19 is working on setting criteria on when physical distancing restrictions can be eased.

It’s looking at a bunch of benchmarks, such as the rate of hospitalizations, daily reports of new cases, and how the virus appears to be reproducing.

“We need to see past the peak and come down the other side of the curve very carefully,” Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Theresa Tam said Wednesday.

“There’s also other criteria, in terms of ensuring that the health system is ready to absorb more cases, should that occur,” and that any more outbreaks are rapidly managed.

Canada continues to make progress in slowing the spread of the virus, but Tam said efforts must remain focused on stopping outbreaks in seniorsfed homes and other places where vulnerable people live in close quarters.

“But this was just a start in what has grown into a bigger problem and a driving force behind the epidemiology of COVID-19 in Canada’s most hard-hit provinces,” she added.

“The fact is that in closed spaces with large populations that share common areas and can’t maintain optimal physical distances are at risk of outbreaks,” Tam said.

Canada has recorded more than 40,100 cases of COVID-19 and 1,974 deaths, so far.

Close to half of the deaths have been seniors.

More than 576,000 COVID-19 tests have also been conducted across the country, with six per cent positive for the virus.

Tam said the first hard lesson Canada learned in trying to slow the spread of COVID-19 is how one or two cases in a long-term care setting can accelerate into larger outbreaks, with devastating consequences.

Tam said not all parts of the country are experiencing the COVID-19 outbreak with equal intensity. Quebec and Ontario have significantly more positive diagnoses and deaths than anywhere else, she added.

“As we continue to make progress in slowing the spread of COVID-19, we are seeing some bumps in the road that remind us, we can’t let down our guard,” she added.

“We’ve got to act quickly with this virus to address weak points before the virus jumps ahead of us, again.”

Premier Rob Ford suggested this week that Ontario could reopen its economy around the May long weekend.

Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe said Wednesday some businesses that were closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic could reopen next month.

Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry has also indicated B.C. is considering loosening some restrictions by mid-May.

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