Restrictions could continue after step three

By Natali Trivuncic
Staff Writer

As the Northwestern Health Unit’s (NWHU) vaccination rates climb, there is now discussion about what restrictions will look like outside of step three of the province’s reopening plan. With the Delta variant on the rise in the province, it could mean not much change.

Dr. Kit Young Hoon, medical officer of health at the NWHU, said there is definite indication, particularly from provincial discussions and scientifically based organizations, that there is a need for some public health measures considering the Delta variant.

“Lifting further restrictions would require being cautious with doing it. So maybe consider keeping some of the restrictions that are less onerous to maintain,” Young Hoon said. “Perhaps there are some restrictions that we can still use that are effective and have less of a negative burden on us as a community and as a society.”

Some of those restrictions would include physical distancing and masking in public indoor spaces because it is something that the public is already used to and has shown to be effective in preventing the spread of COVID-19 and its variants.

Young Hoon said as cases of the Delta variant increase in other areas of North America including some provinces in Canada, it is important residents continue to practice all prevention measures. This includes getting vaccinated with two doses to help prevent a fourth wave.

Young Hoon said although vaccination rates in the district are high, they are not quite high enough, adding that it is ultimately the province’s decision to reduce public health measures.

“We would need extremely high vaccination rates to be able to achieve herd immunity against the Delta variant,” Young Hoon said. “Recognizing that achieving very high vaccination coverage rates would be essentially impossible, there is a general feeling that it is necessary to continue some public health measures even after phase three.”

Nearly 110,000 doses of the vaccine have been given in the region. Currently, 68.8 per cent of people aged 12 and older in the region have received two doses, and 79.5 per cent of residents aged 12 and older have received one dose.

Young Hoon said although they need these numbers higher, it is great to see that nearly 80 per cent of people who are eligible have decided to get vaccinated.

Full vaccination is important to protect yourself and others against the Delta variant, Young Hoon said, adding this is because as we know that the Delta variant is more transmissible, and it can lead to more severe disease.

Two new cases were announced yesterday, one in the Rainy River District and one in the Kenora area. There is one active case because one of the cases has already been resolved.

There is currently one person in the area with COVID-19 who is hospitalized.

The NWHU is offering walk-in clinics today in Dryden and Fort Frances and tomorrow August 5 in Kenora. More information about the clinics can be found on the NWHU’s website.