As the prime minister announced behind-the-scenes discussions with provinces have resulted in a set of "shared principles" for reopening the economy, B.C. health officials said Premier John Horgan will reveal details "in the coming days and weeks."
Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry told reporters at her daily briefing that they’ve been having detailed discussions about what relaxing physical distancing requirements and closures will entail.
"We absolutely recognize the actions we have taken have social, financial and emotional and health impacts and we have been trying to use the data and the science we have to find that delicate balance of making sure we have just enough restriction that we can control this virus but also continue to function as a community," said Henry. “We've seen that delicate balance and now we're at that point where we need to find, how do we translate that into our B.C. plan for our new normal in the coming weeks and months?"
Earlier in the day, the prime minister’s office released a joint statement with the country’s premiers, which has a list of agreed common principles for restarting the economy.
“First Ministers acknowledge the importance of restarting the economy through a gradual and phased approach,” said the statement, which emphasizes they will focus on protecting health, protecting high-risk groups, ensuring the public health system is well-equipped to handle future waves of the pandemic (chiefly through testing) and support for a broad range of economic sectors.
“Since provinces and territories and the Government of Canada may need to move forward at different times and in potentially different ways, it will be important to maintain the coordination and collaboration that has taken place throughout the pandemic (e.g., consistent guidance on occupational health and safety requirements),” it goes on to say.
Health Minister Adrian Dix defended British Columbia’s lack of detail on what relaxing those restrictions could look like – and exactly when they will be implemented – in the face of other provinces revealing those details Monday and Tuesday.
"Our orders to completely close businesses have been very limited in B.C. while other jurisdictions are making announcements to reopen businesses that were never closed in B.C. because of our nuanced response," said Dix. “We must balance the needs of our social and economic activity, with our absolute need to ensure and to fight transmission of COVID-19."
But amid a largely positive presentation on the dramatic slowdown in COVID-19 infections despite underestimating the death toll, the country’s top doctor cautioned that a one-size-fits-all policy won’t work for a country as big as Canada – and that preventative measures will continue until a vaccine is widely available.
“The epidemiology of COVID-19 is not the same in all parts of the country, so when and how control measures are readjusted or relaxed, will need to be decided based on the local epidemiologic situation,” said Dr. Theresa Tam. “It is critically important that we maintain our public health measures, including physical distancing, until we have achieved epidemic control for the first wave. Relaxing controls too quickly will squander our collective efforts to date and put us at risk of future epidemic waves.”