Should Canada have shut its borders earlier to prevent the spread of the coronavirus?
It’s a question that will need to be examined, says the country’s top doctor, but right now the focus must be the rapid resurgence of the virus across the country as the second wave tightens its grip.
“We’re only at a few percentage points in terms of the immunity in our population. That leaves over 90 per cent of the population, or 95 per cent of the population still vulnerable,” Tam said in an interview with The West Block‘s Mercedes Stephenson airing on Sunday.
“So that tells us that resurgences can happen if we let our guard down.”
Canada shut down its borders to foreign nationals in March and imposed a ban on non-essential travel from the United States at the same time, which is currently the global epicentre of the outbreak.
Here at home, though, cases are rising and Tam said the country is nowhere near herd immunity.
“That’s a quite important question and a very difficult one,” she said on the borders.
“It is always a difficult decision. We’re talking about a country that is not the same as maybe an island country with one port of entry. This is a country of many ports of entry.”
Her comments come amid a sharp spike in cases across the country that is seeing many regions hit record highs in recent weeks, prompting provinces like Ontario, Quebec and Manitoba to slap restrictions back in place in a bid to stem the rapid spread.
Manitoba is now the national hot spot, but the country as a whole has surpassed the peak daily case counts of 2,000 during the first wave of the pandemic, now averaging 2,747 new cases per day this week.
Modelling released on Friday from federal public health officials stressed Canadians need to reduce their contacts by 25 per cent in order to flatten the curve.
Tam explained that will mean different things for different people given many have no choice but to work outside the home or use public transit, but that everyone needs to cut down as much as possible.
“On a community basis, we need to cut down the number of interactions by about 25 per cent in order for that curve to bend and in some cases, you have to do more,” Tam said.
“For individuals, it’s difficult to translate into exact numbers so our advice is to reduce your contacts as much as possible to your household.”
She acknowledged the difficulty many Canadians are facing at the thought of reducing contacts once more, and said coping with the pandemic has been a learning curve for her personally as well.
With frequent 14- or 16-hour days, Tam said she has been working to take advantage of any chance she can to get exercise and to remain focused on the meaning of her job.
“It is a marathon and there have been days where it’s extremely tiring,” she said.
“But I get up every morning and I go, ‘Okay, I’m going to do something that I hope will be helpful.'”