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COVID-19: B.C.'s restart plan is good but could face bumps, says expert

FILE - People sit and lie in the sun at Kitsilano Beach Park in Vancouver, on Saturday, May 9, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Summary

Infectious diseases expert says B.C.'s plan to gradually lift COVID-19 restrictions appears well thought out and safe

Dr. Isaac Bogoch says B.C.'s restart plan could see some bumps along the way, but strategy can be adapted as needed

B.C. restart plan relies on high vaccination rates, low cases, hospitalizations; proposes return to normal by September

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – B.C.’s roadmap to gradually lifting restrictions lays out a path to what the province’s top doctor sees as return to normal life through the summer. But there may be some bumps along the way.

An infectious diseases expert says he likes what he sees in the plan presented Tuesday. However, Dr. Isaac Bogoch, who is based out of Toronto General Hospital, warns we may still see some jumps in cases of COVID-19.

“There may, may be a small bump in cases at the very beginning of this [as] there’s more people allowed in an indoor setting. Again, the pace of vaccination is pretty significant. The rules are very clear, it does look like a good plan,” he explained.

Bogoch says the plan to phase in a return to things like gathering, sports, and travel in steps appears well thought out and safe.

He notes it bears a number of similarities to restart proposals laid out by other provinces, and that there will always be scrutiny.

“Of course, this is always going to be a very contentious issue. Some people will say it’s too slow, some people will say it’s too fast. Some people will say it’s too permissive, some people will say it’s not permissive enough — as always, you’re never going to please everyone. As long as you have something reasonable, and workable, and safe, I think it’s totally fine,” Bogoch told NEWS 1130.

Stressing the importance of making decisions, such as these reopening plans, locally as opposed to nationally, Bogoch says it’s key to keep context in mind when we look at the various proposals.

If all goes to plan, the province says British Columbians will be able to go to the movies, have small indoor weddings, and go on a summer vacation anywhere in the province as early as mid-June. The gradual return to near-normal in the coming months is laid out in four stages, with the final step, targeted for Sept. 7 at the earliest, seeing masks become a personal choice, a return to normal social contact, and increased capacity at larger, organized gatherings.

However, each stage is heavily dependent on where B.C. is in terms of vaccinations, daily case counts, and hospitalization rates.

Bogoch feels the only things that could throw B.C.’s plan off the rails would be if vaccination rates drop significantly or a variant of concern that evades protection from vaccination appears in the province. But neither of those scenarios has happened yet, and Bogoch notes the plan can be adapted to deal with any such challenges along the way.

“You should have a very well vaccinated province” by September, he says, adding vaccination rates are trending in the right direction, both in B.C. and Canada.


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“Of course, it’s not going to be 100 per cent, it doesn’t mean the virus is going to go away. But you will have significant community-level protection by that point, and it’s fair to say, it’s not unreasonable, to open up,” he explained.

“British Columbia will look a lot different in September as it does right now. It will probably look a lot different at the end of June, for the better, compared to where it is right now. But, again, that all relies on vaccines coming into the country, people continuing to take the vaccine, and circulating variants of concern that are not accounted for by the vaccine. To date, all of those things don’t seem to be happening,” Bogoch added.

When it comes to Henry’s proposed “Hug Day,” Bogoch says he’s onboard, telling NEWS 1130 it gives people, including himself, something to look forward to.

“I can’t wait to hug my parents.”

Find a full breakdown of B.C.’s restart plan here.