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Infectious disease expert concerned COVID-19 cases will rise if masking and testing are left behind


The elimination of proof of vaccination before participating in non-essential, discretionary events and activities in Nova Scotia is just the first step towards dropping all COVID-19 restrictions and guidelines.

Since Monday, proof of vaccination hasn't been required anywhere in the province. On March 21, all restrictions will be gone, as long as the province's current epidemiology stays the same.

This includes the requirement to wear masks.

Following Premier Tim Houston’s February announcement about the removal of restrictions in Nova Scotia, Infectious Disease Expert Dr. Lisa Barrett took to social media to address her concerns.

Barrett said her tweet was not only aimed at the province of Nova Scotia, but Canada as a whole.

"It really does bring into focus what many provinces are doing, which is a change in some of the masking and testing suggestions and what is near the peak of some of our respiratory season, or just in the down swing of the respiratory season when it's not complete, and that was my main concern," explained Barrett.

Barrett goes on to say the virus still carries a great deal of uncertainty, reiterating it is unknown what the case count will be like over the next couple of months.

"Leaving masks on and doing lots of testing seems like a good thing to do at this period of time," Barrett said.

When asked which restriction Barrett is most concerned about being eliminated, she said masking is a big part of containing the spread of the virus.

"We know that masks are very helpful. Many people are very used to them, they're fairly cheap as a way of keeping respiratory viruses under control and we do expect to see some cases going back up. Hopefully not of a completely different variant," she said.

"But until we know more about that, and we're in a respiratory season for other viruses like many people have right now, it doesn't seem to make a ton of sense."

The infectious disease specialist adds hospitals are also still seeing people that are quite ill due to COVID-19.

She says testing and registering positive tests remain important steps, even after restrictions are gone.

"There's lots of testing available out there. People seem to think that they're not supposed to test. Please do, because that's our way of getting early treatment to people," said Barrett. "If you have symptoms, please test, and please register that test if it's a rapid test with the report and support form the government has set up."

"If we don't know that you're positive and vulnerable people don't know they're positive, we can't get to them with treatment."

Even with just over 85 per cent of Nova Scotians fully vaccinated with two doses of COVID-19 vaccine, Barrett says masking, testing, a bit of distancing and "common sense" are still very important factors.

"The reason is, vaccines don't completely prevent transmission, they reduce it," explained Barrett. "But with Omicron, and especially if you're beyond three months of your third shot – and you need the third shot for transmission to be significantly reduced – you could still be around folks who have Omicron, and/or other COVID viruses, and still transmit."

"So, just to be clear, having had COVID, and having had two or three doses of vaccine, doesn't completely reduce your ability to transmit to others."

Barrett is strongly urging all Canadians to continue to wear masks while in indoor public places, at least until the flu season is over.

She said she does agree with many of the restrictions that have been eased so far in Nova Scotia, but adds there are still too many uncertainties to drop them all.

"There could well be very new variants coming and we don't know what's going to happen with the UK and Denmark," she said. "Denmark is still seeing its deaths go up... after it took its masking away. So... when? Well, let's get through the respiratory season, number one. That usually happens in about May."

"And then number two, give us a couple more months of data. And don't forget, people can still travel, people can still do things. All we're asking for, or at least I'm encouraging here, is that people wear masks and do their testing, and get assessed for early treatment as soon as they can so that we can protect vulnerable without keeping them in their houses and not able to go out and do things as easily." Top Stories

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