Experts say targeted coronavirus restrictions have value, but window is closing

“Targeted” coronavirus strategies have prevailed in Canada since stay-home orders expired in the spring.

For months, local and provincial governments have attempted to balance public health and the economy by reopening businesses and schools under new frameworks — and closing them again if needed.

But as virus cases surge across much of Canada yet again, are targeted approaches effective enough?

Experts say they still have value, but that the window for using these strategies is closing — and fast.

“You can target all you want. You can shut down gyms here, limit gatherings there, but if people aren’t actually doing what you tell them, it isn’t going to work,” Raywat Deonandan, an epidemiologist with the University of Ottawa.

“Everything we do is predicated on encouraging a kind of human behaviour. If the policies don’t result in change, then they’ve failed. That’s where we are.”

Unfocused targets

Canada’s daily national tally of coronavirus cases has climbed week-over-week since October. It reached another troubling milestone this week, surpassing 300,000 confirmed cases.

Alarms have been ringing, but each province is responding to the alarm differently.

Rules once binary by province — eg. indoor dining barred in one province, but allowed in another — have been whittled down by region. In Ontario, for example, the latest rules allow indoor dining in Windsor, but not in Toronto. Similar red tape snakes through Quebec, particularly in Montreal.

“Unfortunately, values influence your politics here,” said Deonandan. “The disconnection between federal values and provincial ones may be having an effect, and slowing down cohesive action.”

Sifting through the rules and how they apply has become increasingly tricky, experts agree.

Mix the confusion in public messaging with pandemic fatigue and you’re left with “shortcomings” in some regions, said Sumontra Chakrabarti, an infectious diseases physician at Trillium Health Partners in Mississauga, Ont.

[ Sign up for our Health IQ newsletter for the latest coronavirus updates ]

“But it’s important to not throw the baby out with the bathwater,” he said, noting it would negate success stories in regions Canadians aren’t “laser-focused” on.

“Look at places like Windsor. It was on fire a couple of months ago, now look at it,” he said. The city — once a hotbed of virus cases among migrant workers on farms — has levelled off considerably, but not entirely.

“In Ontario, the conversation has been very GTA-centric,” said Chakrabarti. “The GTA has special, unique issues — ones that still can be targeted — but let’s not throw out public health principles because of what’s happening in the GTA.”

However, some things are difficult to target, experts say — the main one being indoor private social gatherings.

Source: Read Full Article