To slow the spread of COVID-19, the provinces have closed schools, urged people to stay at home and shut down businesses to varying degrees – responses that vary depending on the extent of the community spread in each location.
Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, director general of the World Health Organization, said Wednesday that staying at home saves time and reduces pressure on health systems.
“Aggressive measures to find, isolate, test, treat and trace are not only the best and quickest way out of extreme social and economic restrictions – they are also the best way to prevent them,” he said. he declares.
But the WHO doesn’t give specific recommendations on what business is essential, and because public health is a provincial responsibility, “essential” means different things in different parts of the country.
For example, Prince Edward Island had originally ordered liquor stores to be closed as part of social distancing efforts while they remained open in Ontario. (And P.E.I. changed his decision on Wednesday.)
Dr. Lynora Saxinger, a doctor specializing in infectious diseases at the University of Alberta, called it a symptom of the Canadian system.
“I think it would be much better to have a standardized understanding of what is essential and then people across the provinces would not have to wonder,” Well, why do you consider a liquor store crucial? “” Said Saxinger. “This is a bit of a weakness from the point of view of public messaging and consistency.”
Doctors and public health officials are preparing for a wave of new cases of people exposed before the border and measures for social distancing.
“It’s that kind of calm before the storm,” she said. “In other areas, we see the storm starting. We have a more mature epidemic happening in British Columbia.”
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Dr. Stephanie Smith, Director of Infection Prevention and Control at the University of Alberta, said that since it takes up to 14 days for symptoms of COVID-19 to appear, it is Too early to say to what extent do physical distance measurements and closures have an effect in Canada?
“It has become very clear that the sooner you can put these measures in place, the better off you will be,” said Smith.
Like trying to collect water with your hands
In Toronto, Dr. Michael Gardam is concerned that people who feel well will relax through physical distance measurements.
“It is not something we can relax after two weeks,” he warned.
Gardam, the hospital’s chief of staff and infectious disease doctor, struggles to store masks to protect his staff at Humber River Hospital.
He’s also trying to find fans and juggle teleconferences as people question plans based on the results of the latest COVID-19 study around the world.
“It looks like you are trying to collect water with your hands,” said Gardam. “For those of us in healthcare, it’s hell. We haven’t reached our peak yet. People are already tired and it hasn’t started.”
Dr. Saverio Stranges, professor of epidemiology at Western University, watches the pandemic unfold in London, Ontario, and in his own birthplace, Italy.
“If we assume that everyone can be potentially infected now, then we can adopt these measures of social distancing,” he said.
The Italian experience with COVID-19 is extremely dramatic, he said, with intensive care doctors faced with painful life and death decisions in invaded hospitals. The morgues pile up with the victims of the pandemic.
In contrast, South Korea and Taiwan were able to intensify the tests and find the contacts of those infected.
Stranges said such measures are crucial to containing an epidemic like COVID-19 which is spreading in the community.
But in Western countries, the number of cases is underestimated because only those with clear symptoms are tested.
Compared to Italy, Stranges sees an advantage in the vast geography of Canada.
“A good number of people live in individual houses, unlike Italian or European countries where the vast majority of people live in apartment buildings,” he said. “It is an important difference.”
Stranges said he did not want to generalize, but noted that Italy and Canada also tend to differ in family structures in terms of grandparents living with their children.
People over the age of 65 face an increased risk of death from COVID-19 compared to other age groups, although everyone is susceptible to a pandemic.
Dr. Paul Gully is a retired public health physician in Victoria who has worked in the field locally in Saskatoon as well as nationally and with WHO.
“People have a good reason to change their daily lives,” said Gully on Thursday. “It’s not just the over 70s who get sick. It’s also the young people. Even though the death rate among those under 70 is lower, they get sick. I think it’s really important to know it and that it’s important to be as open as possible with this data. “
Stranges estimated that a few days ago, Canada was about 17 days behind Italy in terms of the epidemic growth curve for new diseases.
This means that the worst moments of the epidemic in Canada can still occur.
“This is the time when we must respect this measure of social distancing,” said Stranges.