Health officials say COVID-19 pandemic could last four to six months

Health officials say COVID-19 pandemic could last four to six months
WatchNow the question is how long will these measures be in place, and how long will the pandemic last? The answer is, there is no one answer. But the experts say be prepared for a long haul. Mary Griffin reports.

The roads are empty and every business is feeling the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Hundreds of millions of dollars in economic activity are gone in the aftermath of the provincial health officer’s decisions to shut down much of B.C. to try to control the COVID-19 pandemic.

On Wednesday in Vancouver, BC’s provincial health officer, Dr. Bonnie Henry, said her orders that include closing businesses are necessary to fight the pandemic. “We have to take these sometimes draconian measures of making everybody stay away,” Henry said.

The impact of the closures is felt immediately. But the question most people want to know is how long will these measures be in effect, and how long will this pandemic continue to wreak havoc. The answer depends on who you ask.

At his daily COVID-19 briefing to news media in Washington, US President Donald Trump announced an end date for the border closures.

“I would say 30 days, and hopefully at the end of thirty days we’ll be in great shape,” Trump said.

In BC, the government is more realistic. Solicitor General Mike Farnworth wouldn’t give specifics but admits it will take time.  “In terms of how long is the government prepared for? As long as it takes.  We are going to get through this.  British Columbians and Canadians are going to get through this. And we’re all working together to make that happen,” Farnworth said.

The chief medical officer for Island Health, Dr. Richard Stanwick said people need to prepare for the long haul.  “From a planning perspective, we’re probably looking at four to six months for this virus to pass through the community.  And again, it’s going to be a matter of ensuring that we reduce the pressures on our healthcare system by changing those steps so that when people need care the health system will still be able to respond. Despite these pressures that this virus is going to bring upon it,” Stanwick said.

The worry now with the US auto sector shutting down, airlines grounded, stock exchanges shuttered, businesses devastated is how will the global economy recover.

University of Victoria historian, Dr. Mitchell Hammond, said societies do recover from pandemics, even from the Spanish flu pandemic where, globally, more than fifty million people died.  Just a few years later the roaring twenties brought economic prosperity. “That was a very different world of course. I  think that’s a good example of how societies can be very resilient and bounce back quickly from what might be seen as catastrophic events. Tens of millions of people died,” Hammond said.

Again, Farnworth advised British Columbians to prepare. “We are going to be there for the long haul. As long as it takes.”

There is little information on how long this pandemic will last. But the experts do say it will end, and there will be a recovery.

Mary GriffinMary Griffin

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