Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry answers questions during a press conference to update on the province’s fall pandemic preparedness plan from the press theatre at Legislature in Victoria, Wednesday, Sept. 9, 2020. The looming prospect of a second wave of COVID-19 this fall has governments cautiously monitoring daily infection rates as economies restart and students return to school. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito

COVID-19 controls tightened as cases rise and possible second wave looms

Epidemiologists warn Canadians should brace for more restrictions if COVID-19 cases continue to rise

The looming prospect of a second wave of COVID-19 this fall has governments cautiously monitoring daily infection rates as economies restart and students return to school.

A widespread return of economic and social restrictions that closed businesses and schools and cancelled public events in March is not the preferred option, but there may be no choice, say politicians and health officials.

“The last thing that anyone wants is to have to once again shut down our economies and suspend our lives to try and counter a massive second wave,” Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said last week.

He stressed public vigilance to fight the pandemic, frequent hand washing, mask wearing and physical distancing, because “as we’re seeing with cases rising across the country, we are not out of the woods.”

Winnipeg epidemiologist Cynthia Carr said Canadians should brace for more restrictions and shutdowns if COVID-19 cases continue to rise, even without the arrival of a second wave.

“There could still be a large increase in cases related to behaviour and that gives government opportunity to go, ‘OK, what are we going to change now to get the transmission back under control?’” she said. “That’s where government will need to focus.”

B.C. ordered the immediate closure of nightclubs and banquet halls last week after daily COVID-19 case numbers were consistently above 100, with many infections traced to young people out socializing at events where alcohol was served.

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry also ordered bars, pubs, lounges and restaurants to cut off alcohol sales at 10 p.m. and close by 11 p.m., unless serving only food.

Henry said she took “draconian” measures in March to slow infections, and closing nightclubs and halls is a necessary step now.

“I think we need to all start rethinking about what we need to do to get us through the next few months as a community together, and these are some of the things that we’ll need to put aside for now,” she said at a news conference.

Last week in Quebec, the government said police can hand out tickets ranging between $400 and $6,000 to those who don’t have a face covering in indoor public spaces or on public transit.

The province also announced several measures in addition to the fines, including the banning of karaoke and obliging bars to keep registers of clients as infection numbers rise.

Carr said other public health officials will look at increasing restrictions to limit COVID-19 transmission.

“The more opportunity you give the virus to spread again, the more it will take that opportunity,” she said.

Carr, a private consultant who advises governments and communities on health policy, said the arrival of a second wave of COVID-19 will cause widespread fear because it signals the virus has changed its behaviour.

“That’s where the scariest parts are,” she said. “If the virus starts to mutate and become different and impact, for example, much younger people significantly.”

But Carr said increasing restrictions are inevitable in a second wave or uptick in COVID-19 cases.

READ MORE: B.C. reports 317 new COVID-19 cases, 6 deaths over the weekend

Economics professor James Brander said politicians and health officials should carefully weigh the impact of imposing more restrictions or shutdowns on the economy in the event of a second wave or increasing infection rates.

“What you want is the low hanging fruit,” said the public policy expert at the University of British Columbia’s Sauder School of Business.

Governments were too harsh on the economy in March and with hindsight should now consider more targeted restriction options, including shutting down bars, preventing large gatherings and requiring more aggressive mask-wearing policies, Brander said.

Carr said pandemic control involves juggling three areas: health, the economy and social well-being.

“The best decision is typically related back to controlling as much as possible the transmission so that economies can get back to thriving and that people can maintain social well-being.”

Dirk Meissner, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism? Make a donation here.

Coronavirus

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

COVID-19: Active cases in central zone up Tuesday

Central zone active cases remains lowest of all zones

PHOTOS: Eckville graduates receive their diplomas, finally

Eckville Jr./Sr. High School held a socially distanced grad over the weekend

Central zone active cases down to 20

Province provides update

Gord Bamford serenades Sylvan Lake at sold out concert

Gord Bamford played for a sold out crowd at a drive-in concert Sept. 19 in Sylvan Lake

Quirky Canadian comedy ‘Schitt’s Creek’ takes Emmys by storm with comedy sweep

Toronto-raised Daniel Levy and Ottawa-born Annie Murphy both got supporting actor nods

Public health officials urge Canadians to limit contacts again as COVID-19 cases rise

Canada has committed $1 billion to buy at least 154 million doses of vaccines from five different companies

Majority of Canadians support wearing masks during COVID-19, oppose protests: poll

Nearly 90 per cent felt wearing a mask was a civic duty because it protects others from COVID-19

RCMP say body located of man who fell in river during stop for photos in Banff

Parks Canada has said the man was from India and living in Canada on a work visa

Paper towel in short supply as people stay home, clean more, industry leader says

While toilet paper consumption has returned to normal levels, paper towel sales continue to outpace pre-COVID levels

Lacombe beekeepers give the buzz on winterizing hives

Winterizing a honeybee hive is not a simple task, local apiarists say

Six injured, man in custody following BB gun incident in Alberta, RCMP say

Airdrie’s downtown core was told to shelter-in-place, while others nearby were asked to stay inside

Nearly 20 per cent of COVID-19 infections among health-care workers by late July

WHO acknowledged the possibility that COVID-19 might be spread in the air under certain conditions

Most Read