Canadians can look forward to small, outdoor summer gatherings if vaccine targets are met: officials
OTTAWA -- The Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) has issued preliminary guidelines detailing what Canadians can expect to do this summer and fall with fewer pandemic restrictions, all dependent on whether the country can meet its vaccine targets.
If 75 per cent of Canadians eligible for vaccines have had one dose and 20 per cent have had a second dose, summer can include camping, hiking, picnics, and patios, but crowds should still be avoided, PHAC says.
By fall, if 75 per cent of those eligible for a vaccine have been fully vaccinated, expect to be able to gather indoors with people outside your household, participate in indoor sports, and attend family gatherings.
Health officials said Friday the lifting of public health restrictions more generally is, of course, dependent on the situation in specific communities.
As for right now, they say Canadians must stay the course.
“For now, you need to keep following public health advice, whether or not you’ve been vaccinated, to keep yourself, your family, and your community safe. More people need to be vaccinated before we can ease restrictions,” said Health Minister Patty Hajdu.
Dubbed a “roadmap” to reopening, the document also includes indicators to help guide local public health responses, so to not only consider vaccination rates.
Indicators include ensuring COVID-19 transmission is controlled “to a manageable level” and there is sufficient public health capacity to test, trace, and isolate a “high proportion of cases and contacts,” and sufficient health-care capacity.
“You have to actually let the epidemiology and the data drive these slow reopening measures at the local level, so it’s about these indicators on top of these targets of vaccine coverage,” said Canada’s Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Theresa Tam.
This comes as Prime Minster Justin Trudeau declared this week Canadians should prepare for a “one-dose summer” and a “two-dose fall,” though he provided little detail about what that would look like.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has provided the country with extensive guidelines about what citizens can and can’t do once vaccinated. On Thursday they further clarified that those fully vaccinated do not need to wear masks outdoors, nor do they need to wear them indoors in most settings if local and state laws allow it, and will not need to physically distance in most settings either.
Dr. Howard Njoo, deputy chief public health officer, said Friday that more guidance is coming for Canadians who have only received one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, including the possibility of multiple household bubbles.
"We'll be coming forward with additional tools and guidance for Canadians to do that personal risk assessment," he said.
Canadian health officials were also asked Friday what makes plans for this summer different than last and whether more activities should be green-lighted. Hajdu said the current roadmap is an important step forward.
“We wanted to give people an indication of what increasing vaccination in the country and in communities would look like, and what kind of activities we could anticipate would be returning to our everyday lives as a result of increasing vaccination,” she said.
Hajdu reiterated that more restrictions could be lifted if specific provinces have lower rates of transmission and higher rates of vaccination.
Procurement Minister Anita Anand also announced on Friday that Pfizer has agreed to move up a shipment of doses scheduled for the week of May 24, which means Canada will receive 3.4 million doses from the supplier next week.
“As a result of our negotiations that are ongoing with suppliers, we’ve already accelerated 28 million doses from later quarters to earlier quarters this year. So we will continue to pull in unprecedented numbers of vaccines into this country,” said Anand.
A shipment of 1.1 million doses of the Moderna vaccine is also expected to arrive next week, bringing the total to 4.5 million doses – the largest batch to date.
In the second quarter, which ends in June, Canada is expecting to receive a total of 24.2 million doses from Pfizer, between 10.3 and 12.3 million doses of Moderna, and the government had aimed to see up to 4.4 million doses of AstraZeneca arrive.
With a file from CTV News’ Rachel Aiello.