Increased public health measures needed to prevent second wave of COVID-19: report

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Now that the Province is beginning to gradually begin reopening businesses, many are concerned about the potential safety risks. 

However, a new report has outlined potential ways for Ontario to return to some semblance of normalcy safely. 

The report, conducted by the Ontario Medical Association (OMA), has outlined five key measures that will be required for residents until a vaccine is found. 

There is going to be a new normal in the health-care system as well as the world at large,” Allan O’Dette, CEO of the OMA, said in a news release.

The OMA is committed to working collaboratively with the government and other partners to ensure that the health system’s recovery in the post-pandemic environment is managed in the most efficient and effective manner for patients and providers alike,” he continued. 

The measures are as follows: 

1. Continuing personal protective measures, including wearing masks, physical distancing, influenza vaccination and hygiene practices. 

  • People should wear masks in public spaces to protect themselves - not just protect others. Those who can, should continue to work from home. Employers should stagger shifts, be flexible and provide separate workspaces for staff who need to return to a physical workplace. 

2. Continuing necessary testing with investment in and uptake of innovative testing solutions, as well as serology testing (antibody testing) and immunity research.

  • Ontario must have sufficient fast and accessible testing capacity for all COVID cases, close contacts, essential workers and vulnerable people, and this capacity must be sustainable. The province should also explore innovative solutions such as point-of-care testing, drive-through testing and test pooling.

3. Creating capacity to trace all case contacts, and enforce and support contact isolation.

  • Thorough and sustainable contact tracing must be feasible for all cases, which may require hiring more contact tracers. Ontario should use innovative technology solutions such as Bluetooth applications to support existing time-consuming interviews and identify unknown contacts. The benefits of digital contact tracing must be balanced with protecting people’s privacy.

4. Protecting all populations — targeted approaches to protecting children and vulnerable populations.

  • Decision-makers need to take a nuanced approach to decisions about reopening schools and childcare facilities considering the unique needs of children, particularly their social and emotional development during prolonged isolation. Vulnerable populations, such as seniors and those with existing medical conditions, will need to move through transition phases slower than the general public.

5. Balancing public trust in and public compliance with the other public health pillars to safely reopen Ontario.

  • Education and communication to the public will be key to ensure continued compliance with public health measures and that the public has confidence and trust that it is safe to return.

Additionally, the OMA is reminding residents that, while the spread has slowed due to the actions the Province has taken thus far, there is still the threat of a second-wave if the proper precautions aren’t taken. 

What we have learnt, from the experiences of other countries, and historically from other viruses and pandemics is that we should not rush,” Samantha Hill, president of the OMA, said in the same release. 

Reopening the province needs to occur in a phased and gradual manner to safely balance the need to restart the economy and ramp up deferred services, while continuing to protect everyone from the risk of exposure and preserving system capacity to respond to another outbreak or surge in cases,” she continued. 

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