Epidemiologist concerned with 'suddenness' of N.B.'s move to lift all restrictions
An Ottawa-based epidemiologist says New Brunswick should slow down its plan to go restriction-free, and choose one or the other to remove: masks or border restrictions.
It's too risky to remove both at the same time, says Raywat Deonandan.
"I'm particularly concerned about the opening of borders and introducing new infections from tourists," he said. "I understand, that has to happen, tourism is an important aspect of your economy, but you can control that better if you maintain the mitigation tools. In particularly, high quality mask-wearing, at least for a while."
On Saturday, the province's mandatory order will not be renewed.
According to public health, the end of the order will:
- Lift all mandatory travel and public health restrictions
- Lift all provincial border restrictions, which will mean the end of border checks, and registration will no longer be required to enter New Brunswick from anywhere in Canada
- Lift all limits on gatherings and the number of people within facilities, which means no longer will there be capacity limits in theatres, restaurants and stores
- Face masks will no longer be required in public places
"My concern is in the suddenness of the lifting of restrictions," Deonandan said. "This should be a staged, gradual thing, with the indicators assessed with every lifting of measures. In particular because vaccination is not yet tenable for kids, those under 12. They remain the single largest block of susceptible individuals."
In a statement, the city of Fredericton said as of Saturday "masking, distancing, contact tracing and hand sanitizing will no longer be required when you visit a municipal recreational facility or take part in any of our programs or events."
City buses, the Boyce Farmers Market and recreation centres like swimming pools will no longer have capacity limits.
Dr. Jennifer Russell says it's a risk, but the vaccine is key to making it work.
"We are going to green. We are opening up and removing restrictions that have been in place for around 16 months. This is a huge transition period," she said. "We did not take this decision lightly. We know that there are risks. But we know that vaccination will protect people from those risks. But it only works if you get vaccinated."
New Brunswick has 65.4 per cent of its eligible population fully vaccinated.
Deonandan acknowledges he doesn't have a crystal ball, but says we can learn from the rest of the world about what has worked – and what hasn't.
"You look at the U.K., you look at the Netherlands, both of which lifted everything pretty much all at once before reaching an extraordinarily high vaccination uptake level and both of them suffered some extraordinary spikes in cases," he said.
Daniel Landry, an infectious disease pharmacist at the Dr. Georges-L.-Dumont University Hospital Centre, said on Tuesday that children under 12 likely won't be eligible for a vaccine until the new year – at the earliest.