The announcement of tough new restrictions on COVID-19 in Ontario has left many BC residents wondering if their government will follow suit anytime soon.
Protect our Province BC, a group of healthcare workers and independent researchers, including some prominent physicians, have already called for a three-week breaker to tackle unprecedented levels of COVID-19 transmission fueled by the spreading Omicron variant fast.
On Monday, Dr. Lyne Filiatrault, a retired emergency physician who has spent years at Vancouver General Hospital and is part of the group, told CTV News the province has been fully responsive in its policies since the first wave of pandemic, and that needs to change due to Omicron’s infectivity.
“Want a note (for BC’s Omicron health policy)? D, F, take your pick, ”she said.
A circuit breaker, which Filiatrault believes would shut down non-essential businesses to a minimum and reduce the capacity of others below 50%, would constitute a pause aimed at slowing down transmission.
But not everyone agrees that further restrictions are needed. Dr Brian Conway of the Vancouver Infectious Disease Center argued that British Columbia’s current measures might be enough – if properly implemented.
“The main problem we would have with tougher measures is, would people follow them or try to find ways around them? Conway said Monday in an interview with CTV Morning Live.
Conway argued that better access to rapid testing and tracking of existing COVID-19 restrictions – which would include more policing of social gatherings – would help the province get through this latest phase of the pandemic.
He also noted that the number of hospitalizations for COVID-19 has not seen a sharp increase in recent weeks. 220 people were hospitalized for COVID-19 in British Columbia on Friday, up about 15% from the previous week, but well below the province’s all-time high of 515 recorded in April.
“If the capacity of hospital beds, the capacity of intensive care beds is threatened, that’s what really sets off the circuit breakers,” Conway said. “We’re not there yet in British Columbia”
Dr Christopher Labos, a Montreal-based epidemiologist and cardiologist, who is also not part of the group, was more cautious.
“It’s a question of priorities. It’s a question of balancing the risks, ”Labos said.
“If you let businesses stay open, you support the economy, but you risk letting the virus spread. And it’s not an easy thing to know where that line is, ”added Labos.
Meanwhile, Protect our Province BC predicted that if something is not done to curb transmission, the rapid spread of Omicron could quickly impact “every industry”, causing a staff shortage of 20-30. percent while employees stay home due to infection or exposure.
The group also argued that hospital resources are already too stretched to cope with many illnesses that have gone untreated in recent months, as the Delta variant has spiked severe cases of COVID-19, by and large. part among the unvaccinated.
“We have increased hospitalizations not only of Delta patients, but also of all chronic disease management cases who waited until the very last minute to get to the hospital for care,” said Dr. Amy Tan.
“Our whole system continues to be overloaded, overloaded and understaffed and I’ll say low morale.”
Dr Conway and Dr Labos both agreed that Omicron still has the potential to overwhelm the healthcare system.
Labs suggested the province could further explore options that might not overwhelm businesses, but could target transmission areas, potentially closing restaurants and further delaying back to school in person.
Filiatrault advocates that everyone “step up their mask set” and that the issue of ventilation in schools, long-term care and hospitals can be approached in a more holistic way.
“It doesn’t matter if you have six people at the table. It doesn’t matter if you have magic plexiglass around you. It is floating in the air, ”she said.
Ontario’s latest restrictions, announced Monday morning, include a ban on indoor eating at restaurants and new limits for social gatherings. The province has also ordered gyms closed, like what BC health officials did last month.
With files from Andrew Weichel of CTV News Vancouver