After more than six weeks since school and business closures amid the implementation of social distancing measures, Québec’s Premier, François Legault, recently announced that he and his team are considering re-starting the economy. This decision would involve the gradual reopening of businesses and schools so as to begin establishing natural herd immunity.
Though people mostly agree on the fact that they miss their routines and being able to have a non-virtual social life, this announcement has proven to be quite polarizing.
On the one hand, several parents are concerned for their children’s health in the event of schools reopening later this spring. Some families, whose members may be at a higher risk of contracting the virus, fear the possibility that the lifting of some social distancing measures may put them at an even greater risk.
On the other hand, the Québec Association of Pediatricians emphasizes the importance of reopening schools in an open letter, stating that “a gradual return to real life for our children is not only welcome, but it is also necessary.” The letter also cites issues, such as malnutrition, poor mental health, and domestic abuse, that are being exacerbated as a result of children being in solitary confinement.
According to Dr. Marc Lebel in an interview for CBC Montreal’s Daybreak: “Because they have no contact with their teachers and resource workers, some children might be at greater risk of falling through the cracks.”
Also, because a vaccine will most likely be unavailable until at least 18 months from now, establishing natural herd immunity before the school year resumes in September is seen as the right course of action.
However, the WHO has revealed that it is unclear as to whether or not those who have recovered from COVID-19 are safe from getting re-infected in the future; there is no evidence which points to lasting immunity as a result of the presence of antibodies.
To this effect, Dr. Mary Hayden explains that the WHO doesn’t “know […] if the antibodies are protective, what degree of protection they provide, […] or how long the antibodies last”, thereby highlighting the importance of future testing on the subject.
Nonetheless, Quebec’s Premier and Dr. Arruda emphasize that their goal is to begin re-starting the economy gradually while monitoring the situation closely so as to avoid reversing our ongoing efforts of flattening the curve. Their plans as to how the province will go about this will be clarified in the upcoming weeks.
Therefore, even when things do begin reopening, it is important to remember that we are not in the clear just yet, hence the fact that masks may need to be worn in public and that the “two meters apart” rule must still be respected. As such, our collective idea of “business as usual” is yet to make any kind of comeback.
By Mel Spiridigliozzi