People line up to get their COVID-19 vaccine at a vaccination centre, Thursday, June 10, 2021 in Montreal. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz

People line up to get their COVID-19 vaccine at a vaccination centre, Thursday, June 10, 2021 in Montreal. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz

National expert group raises concern about provincial COVID-19 reopening plans

Delta variant feeds Zero Covid Canada’s letter of concern to premiers from B.C. to Quebec

Some provinces hit hard by the third wave of the COVID-19 pandemic have moved toward shedding more public health restrictions, but a national group of experts is calling for those governments to slow their plans down.

Zero Covid Canada sent a letter Thursday to the premiers of British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario and Quebec “to express our deepest concerns regarding the reopening plans.”

“As more and more evidence comes in, it appears that a single dose of the vaccine — including Pfizer — is only about 30 per cent effective against the Delta variant, which is ravaging India and the U.K. right now,” the letter read.

“Each new variant has the potential to evade vaccination efforts, and we need to protect our efforts to date.”

The group also noted that the variant has already caused multiple outbreaks in Canada, including at the Foothills Medical Centre in Calgary, as well as spikes of cases in the Peel Region outside Toronto and in Manitoba.

“In these circumstances, reopening too soon will waste much of the hard work we’ve put in to stop the spread and cause a fourth wave,” said the letter. “If we make the last bit of effort, the current downgrading wave could be the last.”

In Alberta, public health restrictions brought in last month were eased Thursday as part of the second phase of the province’s reopening plan, which allows up to 20 people at outdoor gatherings, weddings and funeral services, but still bans indoor gatherings.

It also allows indoor recreation, entertainment and other settings to open at a third of the venue’s fire code occupancy. Gyms and fitness studios can open for solo and drop-in activities, as well indoor fitness classes with proper distancing.

Restaurants can have a maximum of six people per table, indoors or outdoors. Outdoor public gatherings such as concerts and festivals can have up to 150 people.

To reach the second phase, 60 per cent of eligible Albertans had to have at least one shot for a two-week period. As of Wednesday, the province was at about 67 per cent.

Premier Jason Kenney has said that all restrictions would be lifted when 70 per cent of the population has had one dose, but thousands more vaccination appointments are needed to get to that goal.

Last week, the Edmonton Zone Medical Staff Association sent a letter to the mayors of Calgary and Edmonton saying the province’s reopening plan was happening too fast.

The group asked the mayors to keep masking bylaws in place until at least 70 per cent of their cities’ eligible populations have been fully immunized.

Edmonton Mayor Don Iveson said this week that warnings from doctors’ groups about reopening plans “have been right every time.”

In Thursday’s letter to the premiers, Zero Covid Canada also recommended that provinces keep masking and social distancing, and only restore capacity limits indoors when 70 per cent of residents have had two doses of vaccine.

The group also asked provinces to prioritize second vaccine doses to essential workers and people living in areas of high infection rates, subsidize N95 masks and protect children by closing schools.

Ontario said Thursday that it is accelerating second doses for people in Delta variant hot spots. Starting Monday, residents in seven designated areas who received their first dose on or before May 9 can now book an appointment for an earlier second shot.

And Friday, Ontario is to enter the first of its three-stage reopening plan, which means limited retail shopping and patio dining will be allowed among other things. More restrictions will loosen after 21 days if pandemic indicators improve and more people get vaccinated.

The latest projections in Ontario released Thursday suggest sharply lower case counts and positivity rates will continue to fall in the immediate future, but concerns remain about the more transmissible and possibly more dangerous Delta variant.

“It will likely be the dominant form of the virus this summer,” said Dr. Adalsteinn Brown, co-chair of the province’s COVID-19 Science Advisory Table. “It is critical to control the spread of this variant.”

Also Thursday, Manitoba released its reopening plan, which will loosen public health restrictions as more people get vaccinated.

“The more of us who get vaccinated, the faster we can regain our freedoms and enjoy what we’ve lost this past year and a half,” said Premier Brian Pallister.

He said his Progressive Conservative government’s plan focuses on four activities that Manitobans value, three summer holiday dates and two public health responsibilities that will have to be followed.

If certain vaccination rates are met by those dates, limits will be loosened on gatherings, travel, shopping and dining.

“Summer is coming and the vaccines are here,” Pallister said. “It’s time for Manitobans to get their freedoms back and enjoy a summer that they all want and all deserve.”

The first immunization target is to have more than 70 per cent of Manitobans 12 and older get a first dose and more than 25 per cent have a second dose by Canada Day.

If that happens, the province said businesses and other facilities will be able to open at 25 per cent capacity.

Nearly 68 per cent of Manitobans have received a first dose.

Businesses will be allowed to open at half capacity if 75 per cent of people have had one dose and 50 per cent have had a second shot by the August long weekend.

The final target calls for 80 per cent of the population to have had one shot and 75 per cent with two shots by Labour Day. In that case, most businesses, services and facilities would be able to open with limited restrictions.

—Daniela Germano, The Canadian Press

RELATED: Tam urges 2nd COVID vaccine dose as Delta variant emerges ‘essentially across Canada’

RELATED: Rate of more contagious delta COVID-19 variant increasing in B.C. with 500 cases so far

Coronavirus

Just Posted

Rick Ruppenthal of Saltair will host a 12-hour talk-a-thon Friday, June 18 over Facebook live. (Photo submitted)
Talk-a-thon to focus on men’s mental health issues

Saltair man spearheading a campaign to generate more conversation during fundraiser

(File photo)
Poverty reduction survey identifies 10 poverty themes

Poverty reduction plan will be finalized in July 2021

Nanaimo-Ladysmith MP Paul Manly says he has no intentions of leaving the Green Party. (House of Commons image)
Island Green MPs have “no intention” of leaving the party after ‘heartbreaking’ departure

Manly, May only remaining Green MPs after Jenica Atwin left for the Liberals over internal disputes

New COVID-19 cases on Vancouver Island by local health area for the week of May 30-June 5. (B.C. Centre for Disease Control image)
COVID-19 cases drop again almost everywhere on Vancouver Island

Nanaimo had four new cases last week, down from 22 the week before

Maxwell Johnson is seen in Bella Bella, B.C., in an undated photo. The Indigenous man from British Columbia has filed complaints with the B.C. Human Rights Tribunal and the Canadian Human Rights Commission after he and his granddaughter were handcuffed when they tried to open a bank account. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO-Heiltsuk Nation, Damien Gillis, *MANDATORY CREDIT*
VIDEO: Chiefs join human rights case of Indigenous man handcuffed by police in B.C. bank

Maxwell Johnson said he wants change, not just words, from Vancouver police

Flowers and candles were laid on the driveway of the Weber home, where Kerri Weber was found dead in November 2020. (Black Press Media file photo)
Greater Victoria man to stand trial for death of his wife last November

Ken Weber is charged with second-degree murder of his wife, Kerri Weber

The discovery of a missing woman’s body in Nanaimo earlier this month is now being treated as homicide, say Nanaimo RCMP. (File photo)
Discovery of woman’s body in downtown Nanaimo now being investigated as a homicide

Amy Watts was found dead near Albert Street and Victoria Crescent on June 3

People line up to get their COVID-19 vaccine at a vaccination centre, Thursday, June 10, 2021 in Montreal. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
Vaccines, low COVID case counts increase Father’s Day hope, but risk is still there

Expert says people will have to do their own risk calculus before popping in on Papa

B.C. Premier John Horgan listens as Finance Minister Selina Robinson presents the province’s latest budget, April 20, 2021. The budget projects $19 billion in deficits over three years. (Hansard TV)
B.C. government budget balloons, beyond COVID-19 response

Provincial payroll up 104,000 positions, $10 billion since 2017

Ocean debris is shown on Long Beach in Tofino, B.C. on April, 18, 2012. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Shoreline cleanup finds COVID-related trash increased during height of the pandemic

Great Canadian Shoreline Cleanup reports litter from single-use food packaging nearly doubled

Doctor David Vallejo and his fiancee Doctor Mavelin Bonilla hold photos of themselves working, as they kiss at their home in Quito, Ecuador, Wednesday, June 9, 2021. Doctor Vallejo and Doctor Bonilla suspended their wedding in order to tend to COVID-19 patients and in the process Vallejo got sick himself with the disease, ending up in an ICU for several days. (AP Photo/Dolores Ochoa)
Love, sacrifice and surviving COVID-19: one couple’s story

COVID hits Ecuadorian doctors who delayed wedding to treat sick

The Tsow-Tun Le Lum Society, which has been operating a treatment centre on land leased from the Nanoose First Nation for 35 years (pictured), has begun a fundraising campaign to open a new centre near Duncan. (Tsow-Tun Le Lum Society photo)
New residential school healing centre to be built near Duncan

$5-million Indigenous treatment centre will help survivors of residential schools heal

Two Lotto Max tickets sold on Vancouver Island were winners, though nobody won the $70-million jackpot in Tuesday’s draw. (BCLC image)
Vancouver Island lottery players win $1 million and $500,000 in Lotto Max draw

$1 million ticket sold in Campbell River, $500,000 ticket sold in Nanaimo

Most Read