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B.C. health officials: Mid-May earliest possible time to lift COVID-19 restrictions

New modelling shows B.C. flattening curve of COVID-19
New modelling data shows B.C. is doing a good job at "flattening the curve" but also what could happen if we abandon strict physical distancing rules. Richard Zussman reports.

B.C. health officials say measures put in place to stem the spread of the novel coronavirus are working, but restrictions won’t be lifted until the middle of May at the earliest.

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry says officials are looking at a re-opening of the health-care system in May as a first step, but a huge number of barriers still need to be cleared.

Coronavirus around the world: April 17, 2020
Coronavirus around the world: April 17, 2020

“For the health-care system to start ramping up again — outpatient visits, surgeries, diagnosis test increases … these things need to happen in tandem. But we need to do it in a way that does not increase risk of people coming together, spreading the virus and transmitting it,” Henry said.

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“We have to find that balance of opening the economy, (and) having business going while maintaining some of the restrictions we have in place. It won’t be back-to-school, everyone mingling. It might be a gradual return with smaller numbers in graduated classrooms. So some kids part of the day and some kids for other parts of the day.”

The province released another set of complex modelling data on Friday that suggests B.C. is flattening the curve when it comes to confirmed COVID-19 cases and is well ahead of the Canadian average.

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Looking at cumulative deaths per one million people, B.C. shows a steadily growing curve approaching about 14 deaths per million, 38 days after the first reported death on March 9.

Compare that to Quebec, which reports 51 deaths per million just 26 days after its first death.

B.C. government announce new financial relief for local municipalities and businesses
B.C. government announce new financial relief for local municipalities and businesses

In terms of cumulative diagnosed patients, after a sharp increase about 20 to 25 days after cases started arriving in B.C., the province saw a flattening of the curve.

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Compare that to other countries, such as Italy, where the number of patients was still dramatically rising more than a month after the first cases started appearing.

“When you look at our accumulated cases compared to Italy, USA, Spain, we were much closer to them,” Henry said. “But we have levelled off over the last three weeks.”

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However, many other activities, such as non-essential travel for work, will be impossible until a vaccine is readily available, Henry said.

“We still need to have a continued decrease in the number of cases every day. We need to look at the hospitals and ensure we don’t have a surge. We need to have adequate testing. There are a lot of pieces we need to have in play,” she said.

“We need to have, as well, enough sufficient quantities of personal protective equipment to make sure that surgeries can be done properly. All of that stuff we are juggling.”