Ottawa epidemiologist praising Canada’s slow, steady approach to reopening as U.K. drops all restrictions

By Alex Goudge

A local epidemiologist likes the direction Canada is taking as it works its way out from under public health restrictions, enforced throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, and hopes the country can gain even more knowledge after watching what happens in the United Kingdom.

The U.K. fully dropped its COVID-19 restrictions and guidelines on Monday, July 19.

“The lessons I think I think we're going to learn are don't open until more people are vaccinated and do not lift your NPIs – your non-pharmaceutical interventions – rapidly. You've got to lift them slowly,” says Dr. Raywat Deonandan, associate professor at the University of Ottawa.

The epidemiologist is comparing the loosening of pandemic restrictions as climbing down from a mountain.

“Lifting all the restrictions at once is like jumping the last bit of the decline down the mountain, and the question is: are you jumping a few centimetres, or are you jumping a few hundred metres,” he asks. “It strikes me they're jumping a few hundred metres and may land and hurt themselves.”

Canada, on the other hand, wants to come down more smoothly, says Dr. Deonandan, and step off the last step with more control and confidence.

Dr. Deonandan is confident Canada won't face another lockdown and suggests a form of 'artificial herd immunity' can be achieved through a combination of vaccinations and continued mask wearing.

He says a fourth wave of infections isn't likely once children return to school. COVID-19 is, however, likely to be considered endemic at that point.

“The endemic phase will look like a fourth wave to some people but it's not a fourth wave,” Dr. Deonandan tells CityNews Ottawa, Monday, July 19. “It's more like cases will climb and they will stay at a certain boiling level, taxing public health.”

From this point on, the doctor says it will fall on public health units to manage outbreaks that will happen among the local unvaccinated population, which is primarily in the under 12 age demographic.

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