(The Canadian Press)

(The Canadian Press)

Easing COVID-19 restrictions presents challenges between provinces: experts

It would be difficult to control movement across provincial boundaries, one expert says

Infectious disease experts say provinces looking to relax restrictions related to COVID-19 need to consider their neighbours.

Prince Edward Island, where the caseload is low, is aiming to ease measures put in place to slow the spread in late April and reopen businesses in mid-May.

The Saskatchewan government is to outline a plan Thursday for how some businesses and services could be allowed to resume next month if the number of cases stays low.

Dr. Craig Jenne, an infectious disease researcher at the University of Calgary, said easing restrictions in one province could present challenges for others.

“Many provinces in Canada have no hard borders,” he said in an interview with The Canadian Press. “Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba — we are not exactly islands where we can cut off travel between provinces.

“We are going to have to make sure we’re on the same page with this.”

As of Wednesday, Saskatchewan had recorded 326 cases, including four deaths, but less than 20 per cent of cases were considered active.

The province’s chief medical health officer has said any easing of restrictions would have to be done carefully.

Next door, in Alberta, there are more than 3,000 cases, including 66 deaths.

Dr. Stephanie Smith, an associate professor in infectious diseases at the University of Alberta, said it may make sense for provinces with a low number of cases to consider letting up on COVID measures.

“When they do that, the most important thing is that they still have an ability to identify new cases and new contact tracing,” she said. “(They need) really robust testing and tracing so that you can identify any new patients and make sure they are actually self-isolating.

“It’s important in terms of ensuring you don’t get into an uncontrolled situation again.”

Jenne added that outbreaks in High River, Alta., and several long-term care homes show how quickly a situation can change once the novel coronavirus starts spreading.

“As soon as we let our vigilance down in screening and isolation … we will see a spike back in Canadian communities, we will see an increase in cases, we will see an increase in hospitalizations and, unfortunately, we will see an increase in deaths once these hotspots start popping up.”

For example, an outbreak at Imperial Oil’s Kearl oilsands project in northeastern Alberta has been linked to cases in Saskatchewan, British Columbia, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia.

“This virus does not travel in the air,” said Jenne. “It travels on people and the more people move between provincial borders and even within their own community, this is how this virus gets around.”

Jenne and Smith said that’s why social distancing has been so effective in reducing the number of cases in Canada.

Each province and territory has different approaches for how to limit the spread of COVID-19.

ALSO READ: Gaining herd immunity through COVID-19 transmissions ‘ineffective’: B.C.’s top doctor

Manitoba has set up checkstops on major highways to help inform travellers about public health measures in place.

Some jurisdictions such as New Brunswick and the northern territories have restricted non-residents from entering or require anyone who comes into the province to self-isolate for up to 14 days.

Valorie Crooks, a geographer who specializes in health services research at Simon Fraser University, said it would be difficult to control movement across provincial boundaries.

“It raises a whole lot of questions about how you enforce and what kinds of abilities you have to enforce measures you put in place,” she said.

Crooks added that it would be easier to protect populations in the North or on Canada’s islands, but it’s simply not practical to patrol every road between provinces.

Both infectious disease experts said closing the border with the United States has been an effective tool, but Jenne noted it’s not a perfect solution.

“It has to be done in concert with everything else, including high levels of screening, contract tracing and self-isolation within communities,” said the professor.

“Closing a border alone is really a false sense of security if it’s not coupled with enhanced measures.”

Colette Derworiz, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Coronavirus

Just Posted

The North Island College campus in Port Alberni is located on Roger Street. (SUBMITTED PHOTO)
North Island College to offer digital and in-person classes this fall

In-person classes will be able to resume in September

B.C. Centre for Disease Control data showing new cases by local health area for the week of May 2-8. (BCCDC image)
Vancouver Island COVID-19 local case counts the lowest they’ve been all year

On some areas of Island, more than 60 per cent of adults have received a vaccine dose

A nurse gets a swab ready to perform a test on a patient at a drive-in COVID-19 clinic in Montreal, on Wednesday, October 21, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson
Island’s daily COVID-19 case count drops below 10 for just the second time in 2021

Province reports 8 new COVID-19 cases on Vancouver Island Wednesday

Ancient Forest Alliance campaigner Andrea Inness walks beside an enormous western red cedar stump in a BCTS-issued cutblock in the Nahmint Valley. (PHOTO COURTESY TJ WATT)
B.C. forestry watchdog finds lack of compliance in Nahmint logging

Forest Practices Board says old growth and biodiversity near Port Alberni are at risk

Port Alberni Fire Dept. deputy chief Wes Patterson, right, and another firefighter monitor the front of a garage at Second Avenue and Argyle Street that burned on Wednesday, May 12, 2021. (SUSAN QUINN/ Alberni Valley News)
Fire starts in empty garage on Argyle Street in Port Alberni

Garage was attached to empty multi-storey commercial building

Daily confirmed COVID-19 cases reported to B.C. public health, seven-day rolling average in white, to May 12, 2021. (B.C. Centre for Disease Control)
B.C. preparing ‘Restart 2.0’ from COVID-19 as June approaches

Daily infections fall below 500 Friday, down to 387 in hospital

Sinikka Gay Elliott was reported missing on Salt Spring Island on Wednesday, May 12. (Courtesty Salt Spring RCMP)
MISSING: Salt Spring RCMP find woman’s car, still seek Island resident

Sinikka Gay Elliott is 5’3” with a slim build and dark brown short hair

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

A Saanich man received almost 10 years in Supreme Court in Courtenay for a shooting incident from 2018. Record file photo
Shooting incident on Island nets almost 10-year sentence

Saanich man was arrested without incident north of Courtenay in 2018

Bradley Priestap in an undated photo provided to the media some time in 2012 by the London Police Service.
Serial sex-offender acquitted of duct tape possession in B.C. provincial court

Ontario sex offender on long-term supervision order was found with one of many ‘rape kit’ items

Rich Coleman, who was responsible for the gaming file off and on from 2001 to 2013, was recalled after his initial testimony to the Cullen Commission last month. (Screenshot)
Coleman questioned over $460K transaction at River Rock during B.C. casinos inquiry

The longtime former Langley MLA was asked about 2011 interview on BC Almanac program

Steven Shearer, <em>Untitled. </em>(Dennis Ha/Courtesy of Steven Shearer)
Vancouver photographer’s billboards taken down after complaints about being ‘disturbing’

‘Context is everything’ when it comes to understanding these images, says visual art professor Catherine Heard

Trina Hunt's remains were found in the Hope area on March 29. Her family is asking the public to think back to the weekend prior to when she went missing. (Photo courtesy of IHIT.)
Cousin of missing woman found in Hope says she won’t have closure until death is solved

Trina Hunt’s family urges Hope residents to check dashcam, photos to help find her killer

Most Read