COVID-19 came in like a lion and will go out like a lamb, Haggie says

·4 min read

2020 became the year of the pandemic. Newfoundland and Labrador has managed to keep the cases of COVID-19 low, but the restrictions still affect everyone. Now there's a vaccine delivered in record time.

Beyond 2020 will examine the people and issues that are going to dominate the year ahead.

Nearly 10 months after COVID-19 began to alter life in Newfoundland and Labrador, Health Minister John Haggie says he expects a calm, slow end to the pandemic.

"I think it's going to go out like a lamb. It came in like a lion, and it's going to go out like a lamb. It'll fade over time, if my guesstimate is right, and we'll gradually ease up on things and the restrictions that are in place with the special measures orders will be rolled back," he said.

"And at some point, [Chief Medical Officer of Health] Dr. [Janice] Fitzgerald will say to me, 'You don't need to sign that emergency declaration anymore,' which I've been doing every two weeks since March 18."

During a provincial COVID-19 briefing last week, Haggie said the effects of the pandemic could last into 2022. In an interview with CBC News on Tuesday, he said he hopes it won't last that long.

Communications Nova Scotia
Communications Nova Scotia

Haggie said it's possible the pandemic restrictions could end sooner as more vaccines become available and there's a better understanding of if, or how, the virus is transmitted among those who've been vaccinated.

"We're optimistic that while we have two vaccines now, over the course of winter and spring, that may go to three, four or even five, which will make our life a lot easier. But until we get a sufficient number of vaccines in arms and people protected, we just simply don't know about transmission and whether or not the vaccine will reduce or prevent that," the minister said.

"Until we've got a level of immunity in the community, we need to continue with the masks and the distancing. I'm optimistic that we should be able to phase those out, but it could be by the time school starts again in the fall."

Staycations, more interaction likely in summer

Haggie said the summer will likely bring more freedom, with people outside, interacting and travelling within the province "as soon as the weather improves."

He said he would like to begin allowing people in from other provinces over the summer, but that's also dependent on how the virus is spreading elsewhere.

"We've seen how we've done so well, but that hasn't translated into what's happened in other jurisdictions," said Haggie.

"[We would] love to have you, but it depends on what the situation is like in your home province before we can make those decisions. And that would be Dr. Fitzgerald's call as much as anybody's."

Travel could be possible with proof of vaccination

The health minister said it's also possible that travellers could be allowed to enter the province with proof they've been vaccinated, but that would also rely on more information about transmission.

"The data about transmission and whether or not an immune person from the vaccine is actually not capable of carrying the disease is not yet clear. We're waiting for the science," he said.

"If it proves to be the case that it deals with transmission as well, then yeah, fill your boots. You come with your vaccine certificate and I could see a scenario where that would work, but it depends on the science."

It's a marathon with hurdles. And the longer it goes it, the harder it gets. - Health Minster John Haggie

Haggie said he understands the emotional challenges that have come along with the pandemic, and encouraged people in Newfoundland and Labrador to keep following the public health guidelines until the pandemic eventually does go out like a lamb.

"It's a marathon with hurdles. And the longer it goes on, the harder it gets. I mean, I've not seen my grandchildren in B.C. and Ontario, just like everybody else. I'm still waiting for my refund from WestJet, but we won't go there," he said.

'[But] I think one of the things that Newfoundland and Labradorians have done very well is to deal with that. They have certainly held the line. And you can tell you've only got to look at the daily case counts per capita to see how well they have done."


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