Changing tides as Canada rides its third Covid wave
Last year when the Canadian border closed it was to keep Canadians safe and prevent Coronavirus from spreading North from the, then far more infected, United States. Now over a year later things have changed, as Canada's infection numbers continue to rise and the US begins to fall.
Last July Dr. Colin Furness, a professor of epidemiology at the University of Toronto’s school of public health, told WCMU the border would likely be closed at least a year. His prediction was correct, but what he didn't predict was that the tables would now have turned. He said some parts of Canada are doing better than others, but as a whole the trend is not looking good.
“When you add up the numbers we’re just about neck and neck with the US now for the first time in cases per capita, there’s a couple reasons for that. One is our vaccination efforts have been very badly done so far, but cases are rising in Canada mostly because of the contagious variants and people understand at at least some level that’s all travel related.”
Furness said travel has been a tricky issue for Canada. The country mainly restricted travel from foreigners, while mainly just discouraging Canadians from non-essential travel. He said with little oversight and Canadians pushing the envelope on what is "essential travel" a lot of unnescessary travel was done. He says travelers were what brought Covid variants to Canadian soil, and a much slower vaccine rollout than the US, they've taken hold in several provinces.
At the beginning of the pandemic Furness was an advocate for compassionate travel, as in travel to see spouses or to reunite families, but he said now is a time where travel no matter how compassionate needs to be minimized.
“The problem is not compassionate travel, it’s this self entitled travel which is very different, but for now the more we can limit travel the better,” said Furness.
He said Canada has finally made its travel rules somewhat tighter, now with a mandatory 3-day quarantine at a hotel for travelers returning by air. He said this new rule is helping to put a damper on some travel but not all since land travel is not included.
Furness said even amid the current rise, many Canadians are still trying to get away. He said while Michigan currently might not appeal to many Canadians due to Covid infection rates still being even or above those in Canada, but he expects with Michigan already rolling out vaccines those numbers could go down more quickly than current Canadian outbreaks.
Furness said, “no one (Canadians) is crying for the border to open, because the conventional wisdom is ‘the US has more Covid than us’, now you guys are about to have less Covid and more vaccines, so the bigger question is not how do we keep the Americans out, but I think how do you guys keep the Canadians out? So I think the shoe is quickly moving to the other foot.”