Canada

LILLEY: A one-dose summer won’t mean a return to normal

Expect this summer to be similar in many ways to what we encountered last year. Pictured are riders leaving a streetcar on Spadina Ave., at Queen St., on July 20, 2020.

It sounds good, as far as slogans go, but what does Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s latest attempt to brand his government’s COVID-19 response really mean?

On Tuesday, Trudeau said we could have a “one-dose summer” without really explaining what he meant by that.

Sadly, according to public health experts, it certainly doesn’t mean getting back to normal. What it likely means is playing beach volleyball while wearing a mask, if little else, and concerts where you keep your distance.

Still, on Tuesday, Trudeau made it sound optimistic.

“We all know, in some places, cases are really high. We can’t ease public health restrictions until cases are way down,” he said. “We all want to have a summer where we can see our loved ones and invite our friends over for barbecues.

“We can have a better summer, a one-dose summer.”

Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe mocked those words and said his province will push ahead to get two doses out to everyone who wants to be vaccinated to avoid a “Trudeau summer” in his province. Sadly, a Trudeau summer is what we might get.

As we approach the Victoria Day long weekend, it’s far from clear whether restrictions are ready to be lifted in much of the country.

Alberta and Manitoba have just added a new round of restrictions, British Columbia isn’t ready to lift measures put into place last month, Nova Scotia is in a new lockdown, and Ontario is looking to extend its stay-at-home order.

“We’re just not ready yet to reopen. No one wants to start lifting restrictions too soon only to find the virus spreading again, and we have to go back into lockdown,” said Dr. Samantha Hill, president of the Ontario Medical Association.

And while Trudeau is talking of a one-dose summer, he’s also warning provinces not to lift restrictions too early. So what then is a one-dose summer?

Dr. Peter Juni is an epidemiologist at the University of Toronto and the scientific director of the science table advising the Ford government in Ontario. He is an advocate of opening up outdoor spaces as much as possible, noting they are 20 times safer than indoor environments.

“The challenge will be that we keep outdoor spaces really safe,” Juni said. That means if you aren’t from the same household, that you still keep two metres distance or continue wearing a mask outside.

“If they play beach volleyball, for example, they wear a mask,” Juni said.

Again, that is hardly a return to normal.

Summer in Canada is a time filled with festivals, concerts, sports and backyard barbecues. None of these things will be the same as what we remember of summers in the past.

While Juni said he’s hopeful outdoor spaces can be used for large gatherings by July and August, it wouldn’t be the same.

“We cannot deviate from physical distancing between households as long as we don’t have fully vaccinated people,” Juni said.

Something about sitting two metres apart from anyone else at a music festival just doesn’t seem right, or economically feasible for the artist or venue.

Bottom line: A one-dose summer is looking a lot like last summer as opposed to any summer prior to 2020.

Expect public health restrictions to continue, expect that you still won’t see friends and extended family in quite the same way as usual.

To date myself, it will be as the early ’80s Bananarama hit goes, another cruel summer.

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