Partially vaccinated Canadians can socialize outdoors this summer, Tam says

Canadians who have been vaccinated with one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine can socialize with close family and friends outdoors over the summer months, Canada’s chief public health officer said today.

With the vaccine supply ramping up, virtually all Canadians will have access to at least one vaccine dose by June. Dr. Theresa Tam said that extra layer of protection will allow some of the more stringent social distancing measures to be relaxed — but Canadians must continue to avoid indoor gatherings altogether until more people are fully vaccinated.

Tam said a more social summer will depend on Canadians staying apart for the rest of the spring. The case count is still too high and vaccination coverage too low to do away with public health measures right now, she said. Even partially vaccinated people should stay away from others until there is broader vaccine coverage in the weeks ahead.

Tam said provinces should begin to lift public health restrictions only once 75 per cent of all adults have had at least one vaccine dose and 20 per cent are fully vaccinated. As of Friday, 50 per cent of Canadian adults have had one shot.

After reaching that 75 per cent milestone, she said, Canadians can safely enjoy camping, hiking, picnics, small backyard BBQs and drinks on a patio.

Canadians should still avoid all crowds, Tam said, and partially vaccinated people should continue to practice social distancing and wear a mask when in public.

Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Theresa Tam and Maj.-Gen. Dany Fortin provide an update on the COVID-19 pandemic in Ottawa. (Sean Kilpatrick/Canadian Press)

“Vaccines will be a major help in keeping your rates low and point towards a future that includes some of these activities that we’ve longed for without a resurgence happening,” Tam said.

“Individuals with one dose should feel more confident that they’re better protected, but you’ve got to get that second dose for maximal protection.”

Asked why Canada has set the bar so high for doing away with some of the strictest public health measures, Tam said it ultimately will be up to the provinces and territories to decide when social and economic life can return to something closer to normal.

Tam said the U.K. is reopening with lower vaccination rates because it has been able to “crush” the third wave and has fewer cases than Canada.

Beyond vaccine metrics, she said, jurisdictions should monitor their retransmission numbers — the figures that show how widespread COVID-19 is in their communities — before re-opening.

“You have to let the epidemiology and data drive the slow reopening measures at the local level,” she said.

In the fall — once vaccine coverage is more widespread and 75 per cent of all eligible Canadians have had the two necessary doses — restrictions on higher education, indoor sports and family gatherings can be dismantled, said Health Minister Patty Hajdu.

“We should be able to do more activities indoors with people outside our household,” she said. “More people need to be vaccinated so we can ease restrictions.”

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