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Re-open B.C. cautiously, says expert pointing to virus resurgence in other countries

FILE - A man wears a face mask as he walks by a closed store during the coronavirus outbreak in Chicago, Thursday, April 30, 2020. Another 3.8 million people filed claims for jobless benefits last week, according to the Labor Department. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)

Infectious disease modeller says B.C. should re-open cautiously considering COVID-19 resurgence in other countries

Germany, South Korea both saw more cases after loosening restrictions

SFU Professor Caroline Colijn says it's a reminder for B.C. to be careful

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) — B.C. can learn from other countries experiencing new surges of COVID-19 as they attempt to re-open and ease restrictions, says a Simon Fraser University infectious disease modeller.

Germany and South Korea have seen a resurgence of COVID-19 after restrictions were eased.

Both of those countries have been praised for their virus response.

But with new outbreaks in South Korea and Germany’s reproduction rate rising above one, SFU Professor Caroline Colijn says it’s a reminder B.C. needs to be careful.

“At some point, there has to be a trade-off with these risks. I do think it’s a very, very hard thing to navigate because this virus can be so infectious in some settings. We need to learn what those settings are and how to best mitigate that,” she explains.

New clusters in Germany have been identified recently, while in South Korea, the government has stopped some schools from reopening this week and reimposed restrictions on nightclubs and bars.

“I think it suggests caution, it suggests rapid monitoring, keeping a close watch and, really, making sure people are aware of some of the complexities around why the messaging might change, why the guidelines might change,” Colijn says.

She also has specific concerns about schools opening up, with conflicting early research on how infectious children are.

“We need a cautious approach, and we need to be monitoring what’s happening with cases and be willing to adapt accordingly. So we should continue to follow public health guidance, really. I think it’s done a great job in B.C. and hopefully we will continue to follow that.”

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While B.C. is still in the first phase of restarting the economy, it is expected to enter the second phase soon. However, there has been some concern over maintaining physical distancing guidelines. 

Meanwhile, the World Health Organization’s emergency chief, Dr. Michael Ryan, said that robust contact tracing measures adopted by Germany and South Korea provide hope that those countries can detect and stop virus clusters before they get out of control.

He said the same is not true of other nations exiting their lockdowns, but declined to name other countries.

“Shutting your eyes and trying to drive through this blind is about as silly an equation as I’ve seen,” Ryan said. “And I’m really concerned that certain countries are setting themselves up for some seriously blind driving over the next few months.”

-With files from the Associated Press