PEI

Island businesses welcome P.E.I.'s plan to end COVID-19 isolation requirements

After nearly three years of pandemic-related restrictions, businesses on Prince Edward Island are feeling positive about the province’s plan to lift the COVID-19 isolation order.

‘I just look at it as a step in the direction of where we were pre-COVID’

Ryan Abdallah, owner of Cedar's Eatery, says he welcomes the end of the isolation requirement but plans to play it safe for the first few months. (Steve Bruce/CBC)

After nearly three years of pandemic-related restrictions, businesses on Prince Edward Island are feeling positive about the province's plan to lift the COVID-19 isolation order. 

Late last week, P.E.I. Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Heather Morrison said the province was preparing to get rid of the isolation requirement at the end of November. 

Ryan Abdallah, owner of Cedar's Eatery in Charlottetown, sees the change as a sign of progress.

"I just look at it as a step in the direction of where we were pre-COVID, which is great to see," he said.

"It's good for the economy. It's good for the town."

In statements to CBC News, the chambers of commerce in Charlottetown and Summerside agreed, saying the change was welcome news for many businesses that have struggled with staffing over the past few years, partly due to the isolation order.

Under current guidelines, Islanders with COVID-19 must isolate for five days from when symptoms began or from the date of their positive COVID-19 test. Those who are immunocompromised must do so for 10 days.

Once the order is lifted, the CPHO says Islanders will instead be advised to stay home for as long as they're sick, with any illness.

Ontario, Manitoba and British Columbia lifted their COVID-19 isolation requirements earlier this year.

Infectious disease physician Dr. Alon Vaisman said the change makes sense, because continuing to force people to isolate isn't sustainable in the long run.

"I think people need to start thinking about how to deal with COVID in a more long-term way because the virus is not going to be eliminated," he said.

"It will likely become one of several respiratory viruses we're exposed to … So we need to kind of normalize how we're going to approach things."

Infectious disease physician Dr. Alon Vaisman says evidence from other provinces supports the move away from mandatory isolation. (Steve Bruce/CBC)

Vaisman said evidence from other provinces shows the change is unlikely to result in more hospitalizations or greater spread of infection.

"People are still probably going to follow the rules," he said.

"Most people are still staying at home when they're ill, and not exposing other people. So I don't think that's going to result in a big impact."

Although he welcomes the lifting of restrictions, Abdallah says he's not ready to do away with them entirely just yet. He said he will continue to ask staff who test positive to stay home for five days.

"I'm saying five days if they're COVID-positive, but my mind might change in a few months," he said. 

"I think we're just going to have to take a few months of these new regulations and we'll see what happens."

With files from Steve Bruce

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