A new streak of no active cases of COVID-19 in Newfoundland and Labrador began on Wednesday.
With three cases in the Central Health region now recovered, 263 people have now recovered from the coronavirus in Newfoundland and Labrador.
A total of 26,010 tests for the coronavirus have been conducted since it first arrived in the province.
“This is excellent news. It’s a testament to the people of this province and their desire to do their part,” said Health Minister Dr. John Haggie.
“For that, I thank you.”
Haggie was solo at the table for Wednesday’s COVID-19 update, as Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Janice Fitzgerald is occupied with the on-going court challenge to the province’s travel ban. Liberal Leader Andrew Furey is still going through his briefings and was unable to attend the most recent update.
“This may be a way of life for us to the end of 2021, and possibly even a little bit longer. Even under ideal circumstances, a vaccine is still 12 to 18 months away." — Dr. John Haggie
Haggie says while things are going well to date in dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic, the physically distant way of life the province has adapted to will remain the reality for a long time yet.
“This may be a way of life for us to the end of 2021, and possibly even a little bit longer. Even under ideal circumstances, a vaccine is still 12 to 18 months away,” he said.
One concern identified lately is beach parties. Haggie says the government became aware of large gatherings on beaches in the province. He says while there has been no repercussions for those involved, people need to assess for themselves if a situation is safe to participate in.
“We saw pictures on social media of beach events, beach parties, and concerns about this. I think, as officials and public health experts, we can only provide advice in certain circumstances. Whilst there are limits, enforceable under special measures orders for gatherings and social events, each of us has a responsibility to ourselves and others to look at any situation we might put ourselves in and ask, ‘Is this responsible in light of COVID-19?’” said Haggie.
“Other jurisdictions have seen the challenges that warm weather and beach parties have brought to them.”
The province entered Alert Level 2 of the public health emergency on June 25. Haggie couldn’t give a firm date on when the province can expect a further relaxation of COVID-19 containment measures, but says it could be known in a month.
“We said all along that shutting the province down and kind of going into the siege mode would be the easy bit and that opening up would be a challenge. As we did, and we did it in a controlled way to try and manage risk, it produced inconsistency. A move to Level 1 would be a move to try and remove that,” said Haggie.
“This is a discussion within public health. I think we may be in that soon-ish category, sometime within the next three to four weeks we might be able to announce when that might happen.”
With a court challenge to the province’s travel ban before the courts, Haggie says the province will have to prepare in the event the ban is struck down.
“We would simply have to study the decision from the court, if we found ourselves in a situation where we had to change the travel ban because of a court decision. It would be difficult to speculate,” he said.
“I think one of the things that has become apparent is the flexibility within public health and communicable disease specialists in terms of responding rapidly to a changing environment, whether that’s due to the disease or a court decision.”