As a movement to open things back up begins to pick up steam, we should not be letting our guard down. We are still in the midst of a pandemic.
Yes, activities that can be done safely should be allowed to start up again. However, we should not rush to reopen things prematurely — not unless we want to completely destroy all the progress we’ve made and risk starting from scratch again.
There are some examples of what happens when societies are too eager to re-embrace normal.
For instance, the region of Hokkaido was the first in Japan to see a major COVID-19 outbreak, and the government in that area quickly instituted a lockdown.
Schools were shut, large-scale gatherings were cancelled and people were asked to stay at home. Aggressive contact tracing was implemented, and by mid-March, the number of new cases had dropped to only one or two per day, the BBC reports.
The state of emergency was lifted on March 19. Schools were reopened at the start of April. Happy to end their lockdown, jubilant crowds flooded streets, restaurants and cafes.
Within three weeks the state of emergency had to be reinstated, as a second wave of virus brought the pandemic back to life.
On April 14, the day lockdown was reimposed, TIME magazine said the island had 279 reported cases, an increase of about 80% from when the governor lifted the first lockdown less than a month before.
In Canada, we are at risk of seeing that very same scenario repeated.
Quebec leads the country in terms of its reported cases. As of May 4, the province has about 31,800 confirmed cases and about 2,200 deaths. Yet it is reopening elementary schools this month, even in regions like the Greater Montreal area, where the pandemic is prevalent.
Here in B.C., it seems as if Dr. Bonnie Henry will be taking a less hurried approach — and that should be the case.
And Henry is not alone in this — even some businesses are advocating for this. A petition from barbers and hairstylists throughout B.C. is calling on the province to avoid putting those businesses in the first phase of reopening. About 3,200 people have signed it.
Here in Squamish, holding the line and being cautious has a lot to do with how we recreate. We would do ourselves well to be diligent in maintaining social distancing when we play outside. The summer months are coming and the temptation to throw caution to the wind and let loose will be stronger than ever.
But even if some restrictions loosen, we can’t allow ourselves to let our guard down. If large crowds begin to gather outside, we risk jeopardizing our progress.
Yes, we are in decent shape right now, but that’s only because we’ve been careful. Let’s keep it that way.