Doctors Question Whether Data, Evidence Supports Lifting Pandemic Restrictions


Ontario’s doctors question whether there is enough data and scientific evidence to support easing pandemic restrictions now, given the lack of vaccines and the presence of new variants of COVID-19.

Instead, doctors working on the front lines of the pandemic recommend maintaining existing public health restrictions and reopening schools for another few weeks while assessing:

  • How the reopening of schools affects transmission of the virus
  • How quickly the new virus variants are spreading in the community; in Britain, for example, the variant caused a Third Wave worse than the first two
  • How soon Ontario will get a steady supply of vaccines

“Too many people have died and suffered from this pandemic already,” said Dr. Samantha Hill, president of the Ontario Medical Association. “We all want this to be over rapidly but there is no short cut. Everyone, including the government, needs to be making decisions based on science and proven health measures. Otherwise we risk going backward instead of forward.”

The government has announced it will gradually lift the province-wide lockdown and return to the old colour-coded framework in which regions move up and down depending on local outbreaks.

The Ontario Medical Association reiterates its call for stricter enforcement of and adherence to existing public health measures as the most effective way of curbing the pandemic, including:

  • Steps to ensure people don’t travel outside of hotspots to do shopping or personal errands in regions with fewer or no outbreaks
  • Hiring more contact tracers – the sooner people know they have COVID or may have been exposed to it, the sooner they can isolate and prevent further spread
  • Ensuring sufficient lab capacity to identify the variants
  • Expedited rollout of rapid testing and clear plans on how that will happen, in schools, for example
  • Ensuring plans are in place to administer vaccines as soon as they are available and that none are wasted
  • Provide paid sick days for all workers so they can stay home if they have COVID or have been exposed, rather than spreading the virus because they need to earn money to buy food

The OMA also urged the government to clarify conflicting advice in its new plan. The plan both strongly advises people to stay home and avoid social gatherings yet it allows non-essential retail outlets to reopen at reduced capacity.

“There are good reasons for optimism, including the anticipated delivery of significantly more vaccines in coming weeks,” said OMA CEO Allan O’Dette. “But Ontario still has a very high infection rate and we are starting to see new COVID-19 variants in the community. We must continue to flatten the curve to save lives.”


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