Newfoundland and Labrador Premier Andrew Furey hopes the province will release a plan to reopen within a week, but many factors will determine its appearance.
British Columbia released its plan on Tuesday and Alberta was due to do the same on Wednesday.
“We are very optimistic that we will have a plan to reopen, as other jurisdictions have proposed, within the next week,” Furey told reporters during Wednesday’s COVID-19 live update, ” and we look forward to sharing it with the public. may know what our summer will be like hopefully.
Based on scenarios first launched by the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC), the BC plan sets out health measures and guidelines that can be relaxed based on different levels of health. vaccination and the state of the epidemiology of the province at the time.
Many of the restrictions the province is proposing to lift are not even in place in this province, where the epidemiology outside of a segment of central Newfoundland is still quite low.
“It’s a position of trying to play where the puck will be, not where it is now,” Furey said. “So we are trying to anticipate the future.”
The vaccine supply and epidemiological changes in the province and outside will be the main factors, he said.
“If there’s anything we’ve learned about COVID-19, it’s that things can change very quickly, so we need to be flexible and dynamic in our approach.”
Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr Janice Fitzgerald said the country so far appears to be on the right track.
“There was a 31% decrease in new cases in Canada this week, indicating that the country is moving in the right direction,” she said.
A key figure mentioned in the PHAC guidelines is that 75% of citizens have at least one dose of the vaccine, and Health Minister Dr John Haggie has said he expects this target is reached in early June.
“We have already booked almost 90,000 first dose appointments for the coming weeks, and if everyone shows up, we will pass that magical 75% threshold,” he said.
Health officials are also hoping to start administering second doses by then, he said, which would mean increasing bookings originally scheduled for later in the summer.
He said it was possible for 40% of the province to be fully vaccinated by the end of July.
Fitzgerald said she was also waiting for the results of a UK study on mixing and pairing different vaccines before deciding how to proceed with second doses for those who received a dose of AstraZeneca.
It is expected that recipients will likely have a choice.
Haggie said the province has already repatriated about 1,400 doses that were about to expire, but still has doses in stock that are good until the end of June.
The recommended interval for AstraZeneca injections is 12 weeks.
Meanwhile, Fitzgerald confirmed on Wednesday that the B.1.617.2 variant, first detected in India, is responsible for the outbreak in central Newfoundland, where two other related cases were confirmed on Wednesday. The number of cluster cases is now 46.
Not peer reviewed British research published this week suggests that a single dose of Pfizer or AstraZeneca vaccine is not as effective against this variant as two doses.
“After two doses of either vaccine, there were only modest differences in vaccine efficacy with the B.1.617.2 variant,” the authors wrote. “The absolute differences in vaccine efficacy were more marked with dose 1. This would promote maximum vaccine use with two doses among vulnerable groups.”
However, Fitzgerald said the plan was still to get as many vaccines in different arms as possible, although Central Health may speed up second doses in homes for the aged and other collective living centers.
“We certainly know that there are cases that have been vaccinated with a dose of the vaccine,” Fitzgerald said.
“It’s definitely something that we are following very closely,” added Furey.
However, Fitzgerald said the province’s experience is comparable to that of other jurisdictions in terms of the severity of the disease.
“The evidence has shown us so far, fortunately, that it appears that people who receive a dose of the vaccine tend to have milder illness,” she said.
The English-language school district of Newfoundland and Labrador announced Wednesday evening that schools in the central region will resume classroom instruction on Thursday morning.
Peter Jackson is a reporter for the Local Journalism Initiative which covers health for The Telegram.