Made-in-Ottawa business reopening plan must include with good health measures: Infectious disease specialist

OTTAWA — An infectious disease specialist insists a “made-in-Ottawa” plan to allow bars, restaurants, gyms and other venues to operate during the COVID-19 pandemic must work in tandem with “good public health measures.”

Dr. Abdu Sharkawy says it’s important for everyone to pare down their social interactions to what you feel is “important, essential and not just desirable” to limit the spread of novel coronavirus.

On Friday, Mayor Jim Watson said the city would submit “made-in-Ottawa” proposals to the Ontario Government next week to allow businesses to reopen safely when the 28-day Stage 2 ends on Nov. 6. Watson and Medical Officer of Health Dr. Vera Etches are consulting with Ottawa businesses on ideas for reopening.

During CTV News at Six Saturday night, anchor Christina Succi asked Dr. Sharkawy about a regional approach to reopening businesses in the so-called hot zones.

“Let’s make no mistake about it; the economic health of our community is critical. We need to do whatever we can to ensure that people are not left behind, that businesses don’t go bankrupt and that all of the collateral damage from people losing their businesses and livelihoods is not forgotten,” said Dr. Sharkawy.

“But by the same token, if we’re going to make decisions that are going to allow businesses to operate at a certain level or at a certain capacity, they need to be guided very thoughtfully and very carefully, and they must be done in tandem with very good public health measures within the community at large.”

Dr. Sharkawy adds, “You can’t have your cake and eat it too and decide you’re going to open up businesses, allow them to operate freely at the same level they were used to if you have a surge in cases that has not gone abated.”

“That’s a situation that needs to be avoided. It’s not going to help our business community if we have to double-down and go back to even more restrictive measures in a month or a month-and-a-half if we don’t do right, right now. We’re going to need to be patient and we’re going to have to be supportive of our business community, but we have to do it very, very thoughtfully and I think gradually.”

Dr. Etches told CTV Morning Live on Friday morning that Ottawa Public Health is looking at “sustainable measures to reopen businesses during the pandemic.

Ontario moved into a modified Stage 2 on Oct. 10, with new restrictions on bars, restaurants, gyms, fitness centres, movie theatres and sports teams. Indoor dining is prohibited at food establishments, and gyms and fitness centres are closed.

On Friday, Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Theresa Tam called on Canadians to decrease their current rate of contacts by 25 per cent in order to get the second wave of COVID-19 under control. Tam recommended people avoid gatherings with people outside of their “consistent, trusted contacts.”

Speaking on CTV News at Six, Dr. Sharkawy said Dr. Tam’s recommendation “highlights just how critical it is really to limit our sphere of social interactions.”

“What it means practically is you’re really going to have to try and eliminate anything that is non-essential.  So the drink with a friend, the dinner with somebody that is close to you but not necessarily within your immediate bubble or your household circle is probably something that is not advisable, at least for the next several weeks while we try to contain this surge in cases during the second wave,” said Dr. Sharkawy.

“We’ve really got to pare things down to what we feel is important, essential and not just desirable, because that’s not going to work right now.”

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