Health officials are hinting at an end to COVID restrictions (and not because of truckers)

While viruses such as smallpox and polio can be eliminated through aggressive vaccination, COVID-19 is too contagious to be eradicated completely.

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The overarching goal of Freedom Convoy 2022 was for the federal government to announce the immediate lifting of all COVID-19 mandates across Canada.

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This was basically a politically unrealistic demand, given that most of the mandates are imposed at the provincial level. But even a growing number of politicians and health experts are now saying it is time for Canada to officially abandon extraordinary COVID-19 measures and “learn” with the virus.

“We’ve controlled our lives in a significant amount of fear for the past two years, and now we have to change that thinking,” Ontario’s top doctor, Kieran Moore, said in a public address last Thursday.

“We can’t eliminate this threat, in fact, we have to learn to live with it,” Moore said.

Eileen de Villa, medical officer for health for the City of Toronto, said similarly last Friday that residents should prepare themselves for a future in which COVID-19 is managed like influenza.

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“Some flu seasons are worse than others. We know it has an effect on our health care system, and yes, it makes many people sick, unfortunately, and yes, unfortunately some people are prone to it. lose their lives,” she said, adding that Canadians still must “find”. Control measures as well as ways to balance other activities of life.”

All statements point to Canada ultimately treating COVID-19 as an “endemic” disease: a virus that has always been present within the Canadian population, but can be controlled and contained without excessively disrupting civil society. Is.

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One of the more notable Canadian endemic diseases is tuberculosis. At one time, respiratory illness was the number one killer in Canada. Most notoriously, uncontrolled TB outbreaks were one reason why student mortality rates in Indian residential schools were so high.

Tuberculosis is still around, but it is mostly kept under control through a combination of treatment and contact tracing.

In recent months, there has been a growing view of epidemiologists that the end of the COVID-19 pandemic will be a disease retreating into the background as an endemic disease. While viruses such as smallpox and polio can be eliminated through aggressive vaccination, COVID-19 is too contagious to be eradicated completely.

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“I think many experts believe that the so-called herd immunity cannot be acquired from this virus because it goes through continuous evolution. So what you’re seeing is this endemic situation where people develop over time. Immunity will be reinfected as well,” Chief Public Health Officer Theresa Tam told the House of Commons health committee in mid-January.

At a public health level, the pressure to declare COVID-19 an endemic disease is most evident in British Columbia.

In the early days of the pandemic, B.C. provincial health officer Bonnie Henry was among the most aggressive in shutting down civil society to stem the spread of the virus. Some of his orders regarding long-term care homes have been credited for surviving most of the massacres seen in Ontario and Quebec.

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Now, Henry is leading the charge to treat COVID-19 more like the flu. On January 21, Henry announced a significant downgrade on quarantine measures, and effectively told anyone with COVID-like symptoms to stay at home until they felt better.

Henry said, British Columbians “have to change their way of thinking” and get used to a reality in which COVID-19 is treated “the same way we treat other respiratory illnesses – influenza … or enteroviruses”. Let’s manage,” Henry said.

Alberta and Saskatchewan followed soon after. On January 24, even as COVID-19 hospitalizations peaked in Saskatchewan, Premier Scott Moe said his government would not meet the surge with new restrictions.

“This will continue to be an ongoing concern for all of us, but we are living with other diseases in our communities and the province whatever ongoing concerns are,” he said.

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The pandemic is still here but… now we dare to believe that we are passing through a critical phase

Across Europe, COVID-19 strictures are already being lifted by countries that have experienced the same illness as Canada.

Last week, Denmark announced that COVID-19 was no longer an extraordinary threat to society, and that the authorities would lift all pandemic measures effective January 31.

Denmark’s vaccination rate is comparable to that of Canada. The Nordic country has also not shied away from the extremely strict lockdown in the earlier stages of the pandemic. Just before Christmas, Copenhagen reacted to the arrival of the Omicron version by closing bars early and closing schools and workplaces.

But Denmark’s 180-degree turn on COVID-19 largely shows that Omicron cases were rising to unprecedented levels and nowhere near the level of deaths and hospitalizations seen in earlier waves of the disease .

“The pandemic is still here, but with what we know, we now dare to believe that we are passing through a critical phase,” Danish Prime Minister Mette Fredriksen said last week.

Spain, Ireland, the UK, France and Germany have similarly seen their public health establishments signal a shift to the “endemic” stage of COVID-19.

German Health Minister Karl Lauterbach, a trained epidemiologist, said recently that it would be “correct” for Germans to imagine a return to normal public life as soon as Omicron cases began to decline.

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