British Columbia's success with containing the spread of COVID-19 has led Premier John Horgan to announce plans to get the province's schools and businesses reopened, according to the Globe and Mail.
The Premier said the final decisions won't be made for weeks to come however and that the measures implemented for social distancing will be lifted gradually.
“When the startup begins, sometime in the not-too-distant future … I think we’ll be in a good place," said Horgan in a recent press conference.
When the pandemic first hit in late March, BC set aside a response package of $5 billion dollars in order to kick-start the economy once things return to normal. The Premier confirmed that he's engaging in ongoing discussions with his economic-recovery task force to try and sort out what will be necessary to revive the sectors that have suffered the most from this pandemic. The task force is looking at many sectors he said, everything from tourism to forestry.
Unemployment numbers are expected to rise in BC after 132,000 jobs in the province were lost in March alone.
The province has recalibrated it's predicted trajectory of the COVID-19 spread and the Premier feels the latest data shows a positive trend that will give British Columbians, "cause for genuine celebration,"
“We are on our own timeline. We have been from the beginning, we saw this early, we’ve addressed it early and we will perhaps come up from underneath it early— but the data, the science, will direct us in that regard,” said Horgan.
BC Provincial Health Officer Bonnie Henry is providing guidance on how to handle the pandemic but she has warned the provincial government that ending restrictive measures too early could backfire. Dr. Henry advised people that a gradual lifting of restrictions doesn't simply mean life be back to normal, not in the sense that it was before.
“We’re not anywhere near the end of what we’re going to do with this, and normal is going to look quite different for some time," she said. "It’s not going to be the same as what it is today, perhaps, but there are some measures that we are not going to be able to stop doing until we have enough immunity in our community— what we call herd immunity in public health—until we have enough to prevent transmission, to prevent lots of people from becoming sick in a rapid way,” Dr. Henry said in a press conference.
The province closed all non-essential business and banned large gatherings under a state of emergency, a measure that was extended again on Wednesday. Classrooms from kindergarten to Grade 12 were suspended in mid-March with no set return date. The curriculum is now being tailored for virtual learning.
“If the curve continues and we get positive signals from Dr. Henry and the modelling in the weeks ahead, [then] we would be able to look at bringing kids back to classrooms,” said Horgan.
Another priority with bringing back normalcy is to resume elective surgeries. The province was forced to cancel approximately 14,000 surgeries so that hospitals could be sure to handle the capacity of impending COVID-19 patients. Hospitals in BC currently have thousands of empty acute care beds, with only 131 patients being treated for coronavirus in hospital as of Wednesday.
“The capacity in our acute care system is robust, that’s at the cost of those elective surgeries," said Horgan. “I think that will be a place where we will start to look at moving more people back into our acute care system again, when the evidence presents itself so we can do that.”