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

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

Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation elected chief councillor Moses Martin, who was also Chantel Moore’s grandfather, speaks to media in Port Alberni on Aug. 16, 2020, during a visit from NDP leader Jagmeet Singh following the police shooting of Chantel Moore. (Elena Rardon photo)
Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation Chief says community “devastated” by third police shooting

Woman shot by Ucluelet RCMP in the Ucluelet First Nation community of Hitacu on May 8.

Tofino is adding to its planning department to keep up with rising interest in residential development in town. (Westerly file photo)
Interest in residential development rising in Tofino

District of Tofino boosting planning department.

The Independent Investigations Office of B.C. is investigating the shooting of an Indigenous woman in the Ucluelet First Nation community of Hitacu. (Black Press Media file photo)
NTC president calls for ‘massive change’ after Indigenous woman shot by police in Hitacu

“We need to get to the root of what is actually happening with the RCMP and our communities”

Hotel Zed Tofino has won a Vancouver Island Real Estate Board Commercial Building Award. (Westerly file photo)
Hotel Zed Tofino wins commercial building award

Vancouver Island Real Estate Board holds virtual gala.

A bullet hole is seen in the windshield of an RCMP vehicle approximately 4 km from Vancouver International Airport after a one person was killed during a shooting outside the international departures terminal at the airport, in Richmond, B.C., Sunday, May 9, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Homicide team IDs man in fatal YVR shooting as police grapple with spate of gang violence

Man, 20, charged in separate fatal shooting Burnaby over the weekend

Keith MacIntyre - BC Libertarian
Penticton’s Keith MacIntyre new leader of the B.C. Libertarian Party

The Penticton businessman was voted in by members of the party on May 8

RCMP are searching for Philip Toner, who is a 'person of interest' in the investigation of a suspicious death in Kootenay National Park last week. Photo courtesy BC RCMP.
Man sought in suspicious Kootenay death found in Lake Country

Philip Toner is a person of interest in the death of Brenda Ware

Vernon North Okanagan RCMP reported to 287 mental health calls between Jan. 1, 2021, and May 1. (Black Press files)
‘It’s not the police’s responsibility to deal with mental health calls’: Vernon RCMP

RCMP remind public to take care of mental health and well-being, while better solutions are sought

Thompson Rivers University campus is in Kamloops, B.C. (KTW file photo)
Thompson Rivers the 1st B.C. university to supply free menstrual products

The university will offer the products this September

Fraser Health is using ‘targeted’ vaccination clinics in high-risk areas of the Lower Mainland. (Fraser Health photo)
B.C.’s COVID-19 decrease continues, 515 new cases Tuesday

426 seriously ill people in hospital, up from 415 Monday

A scene from the Schoolhouse Squat from October 2018, where Alliance Against Displacement members and supporters occupied the Rutherford Elementary School site, advocating for people experiencing homelessness. (News Bulletin file)
‘Schoolhouse Squat’ activists get conditional discharge in Nanaimo school occupation

Ivan Donald Drury, Tingchun (Listen) Chen sentenced in provincial court in Nanaimo

The site of Sunfest, Laketown Ranch, will be open for camping this summer. (Citizen file)
Sunfest country music bash won’t be shining on B.C. in 2021

Annual Vancouver Island Festival cancelled due to COVID-19, along with Laketown Shakedown

B.C. Agriculture Minister Lana Popham promotes the government’s BuyBC food program in 2019. (B.C. government)
Money running out for fresh fruit, vegetables, milk in B.C. schools

‘Looking at ways to support this type of program,’ minister says

Most Read