VANCOUVER -- As pandemic restrictions continue to be extended across Canada, life is largely back to normal in the country where COVID-19 was first detected.

Restaurants, malls, conferences and even music festivals are all operating at capacity levels we saw before the coronavirus pandemic.

“Last week, I went to the Chinese version of Burning Man. It’s a big art and camping festival with people all over the country,” said Nikk Mitchell, former Vancouverite, who has been living in Hangzhou, China for several years.

Early on in the pandemic, some of the strictest lockdowns in the world were imposed on major cities in China, as the country was considered the epicentre for infections. Cities that were normally packed with millions of people looked like ghost towns.

While attending a virtual reality conference in Shenzhen, Mitchell told CTV News that it has been a slow transition back to the "new normal." One of the things he credits is the QR Code that is downloaded to his phone.

“It’s a health and safety code that shows you haven’t been around anyone who has been infected. When I arrived here at the conference, I take it out and show it to them and it has a green symbol that showcases I haven’t been in contact with anybody,” Mitchell explained.

It’s a similar concept Canada’s federal government implemented last year to help keep Canadians safe by alerting them to possible virus exposures before showing symptoms. However, as of April 8, Health Canada said the app had been downloaded 6,455,311 times. Researchers say in order for the app to work, the majority of the population would need to download it and actually use it.

Dr. Brian Conway, the president and medical director of the Vancouver Infectious Diseases Centre, says Canada’s biggest problem right now is getting the COVID-19 variants under control.

“The one reason that we have this third wave is the rise of the variants. It needs to be prevented. At the very least, I think we need to close these loopholes where people can fly out and drive in and avoid quarantine,” said Conway.

Mitchell says a two-week hotel stay is mandatory for anyone flying into China, followed by a two-week quarantine at home or wherever you plan on staying.

“A month may be excessive. But I think it’s one of those things, that more is a lot less bad than too little. I think that’s how they’ve been able to keep things under control,” said Mitchell.

As for when Canadians can go to concerts? Dr. Conway says that’s tough to predict.

“It really is hard to say. I think we need to get the numbers down. We need to exclude any new variants from entering the country so we don’t create any additional waves. We have to fine tune our testing capacity so that we can identify cases and transmission that works quickly. We also need to get our vaccination numbers up. By the current projections, the majority of British Columbians who want to be vaccinated will have received two doses by sometime in the fall,” Conway explained.

“Those are really some of the standards we need to be able to meet, in order to reopen society and have concerts. Some of the measures we’ll see first is getting more people together outdoors, making sure that doesn’t lead to transmission. Potentially allowing two bubbles to combine indoors and waiting several weeks to see if that is safe and progressively we will move towards a new normal. But it’s going to be a slow, deliberate process that will be evidence-based,” said Conway.