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Ontario Premier Doug Ford announced that Ottawa's partial lockdown would come to an end on Saturday, as Ottawa’s Medical Officer of Health said that it’s time for people to learn to “coexist” with the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I have suggested to the province we find a more balanced approach for the way forward," Said Dr. Vera Etches. "The approach I’m recommending is that we learn to coexist with COVID with care."
Those comments were made by Etches on Monday evening at a meeting with the board of health. Etches then took to Twitter to reiterate her statements.
As Ottawa reaches the end of the 29 day lockdown, Dr. Etches says that it is crucial to “balance harms” going forward.
“We definitely see harms from the transmission of COVID and we’re worried about hospitalizations and deaths and people not being well,” said Dr. Etches. “We’re also seeing really signification harms from the closures and the impact on people’s businesses and employment and people’s mental health.”
Dr. Etches added that Ottawa will face the risk of a resurgence in COVID-19 cases for a while. Hence she said “We need to find new ways to live with the Virus.”
Ottawa has seen what can be done, according to Dr. Etches, after people in Ottawa managed to decrease the amount of COVID-19 cases more than once.
“We can do this through our own actions, we can decrease COVID in the community, and it is important to have more economic activity return.”
Dr. Etches said that it is important to consider “harm reduction,” and that it is better for a group of people to gather at a restaurant where safety measures are put in place than in a private residence, where no measures are in place.
Etches also shared her concerns with the effects that provincial lockdowns have on the physical and mental health of people. “I’ve looked at the levels of unemployment resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic response, I’ve looked at indicators of the mental health of our community and the challenges arising from a backlog in surgical and medical procedures. I’m concluding more needs to be done to enable people to return to more of their usual supports and services in their lives,
"Similar to how schools are able to be open with precautions in place, businesses should be able to open with precautions in place. People should be able to learn to live with COVID with care."
Many business owners share Dr. Etches views on dealing with the pandemic moving forward. Sarah Chown, the managing partner of the Metropolitain Brasserie Restaurant and the Ottawa chair of the Ontario Restaurant Hotel & Motel Association, told reporters that restaurants cannot continue to open, close, layoff people, rehire people, wasting food in the process.
Indoor dining, gyms, and other facilities closed in October by the Ontario government will reopen on Saturday November 7 in Ottawa.