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B.C. experts urge caution, courtesy as COVID restrictions change

Click to play video: 'Expert urge cautions as COVID-19 restrictions are lifted'
Expert urge cautions as COVID-19 restrictions are lifted
Some of B.C.'s top public health researchers are urging people to keep their guard up even as the province pulls back its pandemic rules and restrictions. As Andrea Macpherson reports, even though by most metrics B.C. is trending in the right direction on COVID-19 cases -- those experts say there is still cause for concern about another 'wave' of the disease – Mar 10, 2022

Some of B.C.’s top public health researchers are urging people to keep their guard up even as the province pulls back its COVID-19 pandemic rules and restrictions.

There is still concern that the lifting of restrictions could contribute to another wave of the disease.

UBC mathematical biologist and COVID-19 modeller Sarah Otto told Global News Thursday that while hospitalizations are dropping and the Omicron peak has fallen, the number of deaths remains “fairly high,” which is still a concern.

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With the mask mandate expected to be lifted, Otto said she is still concerned about the Omicron subvariant, BA.2.

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“That’s actually slowly increasing, not decreasing,” she said. “So we have one variant that’s more transmissible, that current measures are not stopping, that’s one risk we face. The second risk we face is that boosters – which really help protect the most vulnerable of our population – their effects start to wane, antibodies start to drop over the time course of a few months. Many of our most susceptible were vaccinated in November, December, and so we’re going to start seeing more waning of that protection that boosters provided them.”

Otto said experts do expect to see a rise in cases, but it is not possible at this point to predict if it will be a big rise or a modest rise.

Click to play video: 'B.C. expected to lift mask and vaccine card requirements'
B.C. expected to lift mask and vaccine card requirements

The province said it will support any business wanting to keep mandatory masks in place even once the province’s mandate is gone.

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B.C. director of the Retail Council of Canada, Greg Wilson, said Wednesday there will be retail workers and customers who want to continue wearing masks and that must be supported by the public.

“After the requirement ends we are going to ask people to remain kind. We are going to have staff and customers who are going to want to continue to wear masks,” Wilson said.

“There is a place for signage there too – that is something that we have learned – the tone of the sign.”

In the past, B.C.’s provincial health officer, Dr. Bonnie Henry has made it clear she does not want to lift restrictions only to have to put them back again.

Otto said if cases start to rise following mandate changes, she thinks the province will speed up the booster program again for people over 70, rather than putting further restrictions in place.

“I’m also hopeful, we have to see,” she said. “Masks – I think of them as a common courtesy. It’s like sneezing into our elbow. We don’t want to sneeze into the open air, well the same is true for right now when we have COVID, a lot of COVID cases, a lot of people in hospital, and a lot of people dying. Just put a mask on as a common courtesy. And I think a lot of British Columbians will continue to do so when in indoor environments that are crowded and they are with a lot of people that they are not normally around and working with.”

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