Easing up some COVID-19 restrictions in early May the hope, say King and Morrison

There are no new cases of COVID-19 reported on P.E.I. Tuesday, says P.E.I. Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Heather Morrison.

No new cases of COVID-19 on P.E.I. were announced Tuesday

'We have to make sure we don’t see, in the next couple of weeks, widespread community transmission' says Dr. Heather Morrison, P.E.I.'s chief public health officer. (Ken Linton/CBC)

There are no new cases of COVID-19 on P.E.I. to report Tuesday, and by early May the province is hoping to lift some of the restrictions that have been put in place, says P.E.I. Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Heather Morrison.

P.E.I.'s total COVID-19 cases remain at 26 — 15 male, 11 female — with 23 considered recovered.

"We will continue to have discussions about increasing our criteria for testing, already testing people with or without travel history and admissions to long-term care facilities, health-care workers with symptoms and contacts of cases even if they don't have symptoms," she said.

Morrison said everyone is anxious to go on to the next phase and look at lifting restrictions.

"It's going to involve a process with consultation and a risk assessment with industry, government departments, businesses and communities," she said.

"For us to move forward in early May in easing up public health measures, we will need certain things to continue."

Easing will be closely monitored

Key factors in the easing of restrictions include being able to closely monitor the Island population to ensure cases are identified quickly through testing, and strict screening at points of entry to prevent importation of cases, Morrison said.

That's in addition to avoiding a surge in cases.

"We have to make sure we don't see, in the next couple of weeks, widespread community transmission," she said.

"We do not want to see any outbreaks at long-term care facilities. We want to make sure before there is any ease up there is PPE, or personal protective equipment, available at long-term care facilities."

Morrison said if P.E.I. can meet the criteria, certain outdoor activities and elective procedures in the health system are the two areas where the ease up will begin.

Morrison said as restrictions are eased, measures will be readjusted and reassessed in two-week intervals to monitor how the situation is evolving.

Premier Dennis King at a news conference on Tuesday. (Ken Linton/CBC)

P.E.I. Premier Dennis King said Islanders have done a good job in terms of preventing the spread of COVID-19.

"I feel our province has led the country," he said.

King said he understands Islanders are social and want to get out of their homes, but he said any ease back will be done gradually.

"I am confident we can get back to some normal activities, but we still need to be proactive," he said.

Mass gatherings will not be the first to go.— Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Heather Morrison

King said when restrictions are eased up, Islanders will have to act responsibly and will have to be vigilant in continuing to prevent the spread of COVID-19 by continuing physical distancing.

"As we begin looking at ease back, we must recognize that this requires us to act smartly, cautiously, methodically," he said.

"We need to continue our strong screening process at our points of entry as one the biggest potential risks to our province has been and continues to be those travelling."

While restrictions might be on track to be eased up, Morrison said there have also been 80 official warnings given out and nine charges laid for violating restrictions put in place because of COVID-19.

"The last six weeks haven't been easy and we will have to continue to be thoughtful, deliberate and patient," Morrison said.

Reopening schools?

Morrison said schools and daycares are a challenge and discussions will continue with people across the country facing the same question.

"We will be in consultation of course with the department here in terms of early childhood and education … in the next couple weeks," she said.

If we have any type of tourism season this year, it will be pretty local and a lot smaller than we've been used to.— P.E.I. Premier Dennis King

However, Morrison said restrictions on mass gathering and the need for good hygiene practices are not going away any time soon.

"Mass gatherings will not be the first to go. I think our border screening will be important. When we look at the weeks ahead those will not change," she said.

Tourism season in limbo

May 1st puts the province a month ahead of where it planned on lifting restrictions. King said Finance Minister Darlene Compton will be providing an economic update sometime this week.

He said economic response has to be adapted daily.

"We don't know what the long term of this looks like. We know there will be impacts," he said. 

"If we have any type of tourism season this year, it will be pretty local and a lot smaller than we've been used to."

King also offered condolences to those in Nova Scotia following the mass shooting that rocked the province over the weekend. He said he has reached out and offered support to Premier Stephen McNeil.

COVID-19: What you need to know

What are the symptoms of COVID-19?

Common symptoms include:

  • Fever.

  • Cough.

  • Tiredness.

But more serious symptoms can develop, including difficulty breathing and pneumonia, which can lead to death.

Health Canada has built a self-assessment tool.

What should I do if I feel sick?

Isolate yourself and call 811. Do not visit an emergency room or urgent care centre to get tested. A health professional at 811 will give you advice and instructions.

How can I protect myself?

  • Wash your hands frequently and thoroughly.

  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth.

  • Clean regularly touched surfaces regularly.

  • Practise physical distancing.

More detailed information on the outbreak is available on the federal government's website.

More from CBC P.E.I.