Can Island businesses reopen as we move to next phase of COVID-19?

Can Island businesses reopen as we move to next phase of COVID-19?
WatchDr. Bonnie Henry says we're now "at the end of the beginning of our pandemic." So when can Island business re-open? Tess van Straaten takes a look.

It has been seven weeks since storefronts started getting boarded up in downtown Victoria and business across Vancouver Island are taking a huge hit.

“This has been a much more massive and universal impact on the economy than any other recession on our lifetimes,” says Greater Victoria Chamber of Commerce CEO Catherine Holt. “The big question is, what is the duration?”

New numbers from the province show we flattened the curve and we’re keeping it flat, thanks to business closures and physical distancing measures.

“COVID-19 has forced us to make some very difficult decisions to restrict our society and our economy, steps we’ve never had to take in our lifetime,” says health minister Adrian Dix.

So when can B.C. can get back to business and reopen the economy?

The latest provincial modelling shows that if we increase our contacts from about 30 per cent currently to 40 per cent, there’s not much impact.

Even doubling contacts to 60 per cent, while it may lead to more cases and hospitalizations, would still be manageable.

But at 80 percent, there would be a huge surge and potentially devastating consequences.

“We could see exponential growth,” says provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry.  “We might be in a situation that we’ve seen in other places around the world where we have a rapidly increasing outbreak and rapid increase in people who need hospitalization.”

Health officials say businesses looking to reopen will need to find ways to keep staff and customers safe.

Examples include putting in sanitation stations to limiting numbers and adding safety barriers like grocery stores have done.

“We all want to keep our province safe and to create the opportunities to connect more and get our businesses going,” Dr. Henry says.

As we enter this next phase, which could last months, Dr. Henry says it’s about finding a new normal — and a way of living with the virus — instead of getting back to normal.

Tess van StraatenTess van Straaten

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