Province outlines 'carefully constructed' 1st phase of COVID-19 ease back plan
'Together we will cautiously and deliberately take these first few steps'
P.E.I. Premier Dennis King was joined by Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Heather Morrison to lay out the details of the first phase of the province's plan to ease back COVID-19 restrictions at a Tuesday afternoon news briefing.
King said the plan has been "carefully constructed" and is built on the fundamental principle that Islanders remain in a global pandemic, "fighting a virus that we're still learning a lot about with no vaccine in sight."
"It would be irresponsible and wrong for anyone to suggest that we are done. We are a long, long way from being done," King said.
He highlighted the need to continue to minimize contact to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 and minimize the possibility of serious illness and death.
"We need to be cautious, we need to be careful and we need to be methodical," he said.
"There are no programs to bring people back from the dead."
The plan, King said, will be executed gradually through four "distinct" phases and will be re-evaluated based on the most current public health information and continued monitoring of the situation as it evolves.
If concerns arise over progressing from one phase to the next, progression could be slowed, halted or even reversed in an effort to protect the health and safety of Islanders.
Relaxing restrictions will still include strict screening procedures at points of entry to the Island and all people entering the province will be required to self-isolate for 14 days.
Non-urgent health care
As a part of the first phase, set to begin May 1, Morrison said non-urgent health-care services including elective surgeries, cardiac supports and cancer screenings can begin to see patients.
In addition, health-care providers such as physiotherapists, chiropractors and optometrists will also be permitted to work.
'Driveway and sidewalk visits'
She also announced that Islanders will be allowed to gather outdoors in groups of no more than five people from different houses. However, she warned that physical distancing will still need to be applied.
"We're terming these the driveway and sidewalk visits," she said, "and I think we will look forward to those."
Recreational non-contact outdoor activities with no more than five people from different households, including fishing and golfing have also been given the green light under the first phase.
There is hope. Prince Edward Island is resilient and full of caring, intelligent and hardworking people.— Dr. Heather Morrison
"This would be for instance, my son being able to go on a bike ride with his friends," she said.
Select outdoor and construction services including landscaping, road construction, indoor construction projects, watershed cleanup and outdoor photography will also be allowed with proper physical distancing practices in place.
Island residents will also be able to travel to their seasonal properties within the province.
However, even as some restrictions are relaxed, Morrison emphasized the first phase will continue to see strict visitor restrictions in long-term care facilities.
As the first phase is implemented, Morrison said the province's public health order will be revised to reflect the most up-to-date measures.
The province, she said, will provide further information about plans for the Island's schools and student learning later on in the week. For now, students will not be returning to school on May 11, however, education will continue.
"There is hope. Prince Edward Island is resilient and full of caring, intelligent and hardworking people. Together we will cautiously and deliberately take these first few steps in response to the global pandemic," Morrison said.
1 new case of COVID-19
Morrison also announced a man in his 50s is the newest case of COVID-19 on the Island, bringing the total to 27 with 24 cases considered recovered.
The case is related to international travel. She said the man is currently at home and is self-isolating.
Morrison noted that it is an important reminder that the virus hasn't gone away.
COVID-19: What you need to know
What are the symptoms of COVID-19?
Common symptoms include:
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 COVID-19 stories from CBC P.E.I.
With files from Malcolm Campbell