In a week, COVID-19 restrictions will start to ease in Alberta. Restaurants will reopen for indoor dining and fitness centres will be allowed to open for personal training, but one scientist believes Alberta should continue with the restrictions in hopes of bringing the cases down to COVID-zero.
Biological physicist Gosia Gasperowicz is a COVID-zero advocate, and she’s calling on government officials to do what’s necessary to eliminate community spread.
“It’s a goal. Sometimes you can have some imported cases, but they’re imported and you don’t have the community spread anymore,” she told CTV News Edmonton.
COVID-zero has been achieved in several locations, including New Zealand, Vietnam, Taiwan, and Atlantic and northern Canada. The benefit: There’s no constant yo-yoing of case numbers.
And Gasperowicz believes Alberta can achieve a COVID-zero state within two months, but not by easing restrictions too soon.
“Once you ease the restrictions there might be a few weeks lag time, like kind of inertia when it will either go down or just slowly stay flat or slowly go up, but then it will start again,” she said.
“We can see what happened in Europe in the fall and winter. They had lockdowns, the cases started to go down, then they released lockdowns, whether they called them circuit breaker or whatever, but it was too short, they opened, and the cases started to grow again.”
Edmonton’s Mayor Don Iveson also said he’s not in a rush to reopen.
“What I'm hearing from Ddmontonians, including many restaurateurs, is very mixed reaction to these reopening’s on this timeline,” he said Monday. “I think there's still tremendous uncertainty, particularly given the new variants.”
“It seems premature from my perspective, but I don't have the same data that the government of Alberta and Dr. Hinshaw have access to.”
Alberta’s chief medical officer of health said Alberta has considered a COVID-zero strategy, but there are a lot of outside factors to consider.
“We have an interdependency on other provinces and other countries such as the United States, so the harms of an approach to drive to zero at this time versus the ability of current framework of measures to minimize transmission while still allowing activities to take place is something that needs to be taken into consideration,” Dr. Deena Hinshaw said on Monday afternoon.
“We have always tried in our policies to balance those harms, the harms of COVID against the harms of restrictions, and that continues to be the approach to see that balance.”
Hinshaw said the province intends to rely on vaccines to tame the virus.
But Gasperowicz says with delays in vaccine rollouts, the numbers just don’t add up.
“Why not group all these weeks in one spot, make it as strong as possible, get over it and get back to normalcy.”
with files from CTV News Edmonton's Carlyle Fiset.