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Regional restrictions 'the future of COVID' in B.C.: expert

Last Updated Aug 9, 2021 at 10:42 am PDT

Tamara Dus, director of University Health Network Safety Services, administers a Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at a hospital in Toronto on Monday, Dec. 14, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn

Regional-specific COVID-19 restrictions will become part of new normal saymeasures that will be targeted towards reducin

Measures will be targeted towards reducing case numbers in regions, Vancouver Infectious Diseases Centre director says

B.C. announced more restrictions for the Central Okanagan on Friday due to rising COVID-19 cases

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – As B.C. faces a fourth wave of COVID-19, an expert thinks regional restrictions will be part of the province’s response to the pandemic moving forward.

B.C. reported 464 cases of COVID-19 on Friday, nearly 60 per cent of which were in Interior Health, prompting Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry to announce more restrictions for the Central Okanagan region, including limits on indoor and outdoor gatherings.

Dr. Brian Conway, medical director of the Vancouver Infectious Diseases Centre, believes B.C. will see more regional restrictions as time goes on, adding vaccines alone won’t end the pandemic.

“The future of the COVID world in British Columbia will be cases reported each and everyday as long as we keep reporting them in that way, and public health measures that will be targeted towards reducing the number of cases that are occurring in specific parts of the province,” he told NEWS 1130.

Conway believes there will be a significant number of cases reported everyday for the foreseeable future as things open up, but B.C. will get through it.

“We’ll understand how they happened, we’ll have a strategy to reduce their impact, we will have enough people vaccinated so that we will reduce the likelihood of people being hospitalized and succumbing to the infection and we will learn to live with COVID going forward,” he said.

“I think the most important thing for us to do is to understand that we live in a world of COVID, we will be moving forward into a new normal and we’ll have to deal with it as productively as we can.”

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New data from the BC Centre for Disease Control revealed the Delta variant now makes up 95 per cent of cases in the province. Conway admits this has changed the threshold for how many people need to get vaccinated in order to get a better handle of the pandemic.

Sarah Otto, UBC zoology professor and COVID-19 modeller, agrees the Delta variant has been a game changer.

“In the past, we’ve talked about reaching herd immunity and that really was before Delta,” she said. “Now, I don’t think there is any protection that you’ll get from having everybody else around you vaccinated. If you’re unvaccinated you need to protect yourself by getting vaccinated.”

With the jump in cases in B.C., Otto would like to see a return to the basics including distancing, smaller social groups, and mask wearing, even by those fully vaccinated.

“We are seeing enough infection and transmission from vaccinated individuals, a lot of them have no symptoms whatsoever and so that’s the real risk,” Otto said. “If you’re vaccinated you may not even know you’re infectious and that allows the virus to spread around the province.”

She agrees localized restrictions are a good alternative to province-wide restrictions, for now.

“It could be done in a community by community way like in the Central Okanagan, where there are cases going up. And where there’s zero cases there might not be a need for a mask mandate,” she said.

Masks became mandatory again in indoor public spaces in the Central Okanagan late last month because of the spike in COVID-19 cases in that particular region.