Q&A: Dr. Heather Morrison on what easing COVID-19 restrictions could look like on P.E.I.
'I think it gives people hope, but we do so carefully'
As discussions surrounding easing P.E.I.'s COVID-19 restrictions have begun, CBC News: Compass host Louise Martin was joined by Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Heather Morrison for a Skype interview Tuesday evening.
No new cases were announced during Tuesday afternoon's news briefing and by early May the province said it hopes to lift some of the restrictions that have been put in place.
The number of cases of COVID-19 on P.E.I. remains at 26, with 23 of those cases considered to be recovered.
Here is that conversation, edited for clarity and length.
Q: Let's go through these phases. What could Phase 1 potentially look like?
Phase 1 would be around our elective health care, surgeries for instance. Elective surgeries that have been on hold for a number of weeks, procedures that have had to wait. And I think it's really important because we want to look after the health of Islanders.
The other area where we are looking at easing up some of these measures would be in outdoor activities, recognizing the risk might be lower in certain circumstances when we're outside and not in closed spaces. Keeping in mind the mass gatherings of no more than five people has to be in place [and] the importance of course, of physical distancing. It will allow for some things to start taking place and we'll be reviewing that as we go forward.
I think it gives people hope, but we do so carefully. We want to be careful and keep everyone healthy at the same time. So it is really a balance.
Q: Does that mean it's too early to even potentially look at what Phase 2 and Phase 3 will look like going forward?
When we look ahead, we've talked about doing it in increments. We want a certain period of time in between relaxing certain measures, so that we can make sure that everyone stays safe.
But when we start looking at the next phase it would be around businesses, for instance, that are able to maintain physical distance and maybe looking at how those businesses continue to function with some virtual element or online element as well as minimizing how many people may be able to be in their store at the same time.
Q: Is there any sense when physical distancing rules would be able to loosen so that families and friends could visit each other?
No. We may be able to in certain circumstances, not today, not yet, but move to where we can see our friends and family but maintain physical distance.
And I think even that will mean a lot to people and it will give huge comfort to be able to at least sit in the same room … which we have really not done in a long time and we haven't seen people we really care about. I think we need to get there and that will be also one part of the conversation in the weeks ahead.
Q: Is it a fair assumption to think that the border would be the last phase of easing up the restrictions at the bridge, the ferry and at the airport?
I think the restrictions in terms of interprovincial travel, mass gatherings, our visitor restrictions in long-term care — I think those three things will not be in Phase 1 or Phase 2.
But we'll continue to look at what those mean and there could be changes to what it means in terms of interprovincial travel, but it will also depend on what's happening in other parts of the country and in our neighbouring provinces.
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 CBC News: Compass