Quebec, with the worst record of containing COVID-19 in Canada, is reopening schools. Korea, an early international success story in pandemic control, has lived to regret keeping night clubs open.
The B.C. plan to restart the economy is slower than that, more like Germany, which also unveiled its reopening strategy in early May with restaurants set to restart. Like Korea, Germany employed widespread testing for the novel coronavirus, and has seen an uptick in cases in recent days.
Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry says public health officials are watching Germany closely.
“There has been a slight increase,” Henry said at her daily briefing May 11. “It’s a little bit hard to know exactly why in Germany, but we’re watching that very carefully. We’re looking at a number of other countries, like New Zealand, Norway, some of the Scandinavian countries that have also taken very similar measures, and we’re watching what’s happening, of course, across North America, but particularly in Quebec and Ontario, in Saskatchewan and other places where they’re making similar changes like we are.”
Pubs and night clubs were shut down in mid-March as B.C. responded to cases trickling in from overseas. Korea kept them open, and has seen a surge in new cases since the weekend that has been traced to exposure in clubs.
Beginning in mid-May, B.C.’s “phase two” starts with reopening most provincial parks for day use, rescheduling postponed surgeries, allowing dentistry, physiotherapy and other health treatments with additional protective equipment, and restarting office-based worksites, including the B.C. legislature by June.
Key business re-openings are retail, hair salons, restaurants and pubs, maintaining the physical distance rules that have kept B.C.’s COVID-19 cases in decline in recent weeks. Local governments are looking to open up streets for additional outside seating.
Henry has stressed that just because businesses are allowed to reopen doesn’t mean they will, or should depending on their layout and staff requirements. Restaurants and other industry groups are finalizing their guidelines, and each will have to publicly post its pandemic safety plan when the owners and managers believe they are ready to go.
“A steady stream will be far more successful than a rushing river that can damage things in its path,” Henry said.