Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Hendry has announced an easing of pandemic health restrictions.
The mask mandate has been lifted and there are no longer any limits on indoor or outdoor gatherings. When children return to classes after spring break, they will no longer be required to wear masks.
This is a significant change. Although our neighbours in Alberta have lifted their mask mandate, it remains in place in Ontario.
As of April 8, proof of vaccination will no longer be required.
However, individual businesses or events may still require you to wear a mask or show proof of vaccination. Surgical masks are still required in health-care settings including hospitals and doctors’ offices. You still need to wear a mask on airplanes and other federally regulated travel.
Restaurants, bars, pubs and nightclubs can now operate at full capacity and you can dance.
These changes will bring an unmasked sigh of relief to many. Although it may be looking more like business as usual, beware of a false sense of security. The pandemic is far from over.
It remains a personal choice for you to wear a mask. Until I see a further reduction in the number of my patients reporting COVID-19 infections over the next month, I will continue to wear an N95 outside of my home.
There are some high-risk areas where masks are strongly recommended, including public transit.
Over the past two years, COVID-19 has been the primary health concern for almost everyone except healthcare workers. We know that chronic conditions, preventive health, emotional health, addictions and acute health problems require timely attention.
Most people, however, have deferred important check-ins with their primary care providers, reduced the frequency of monitoring of chronic health conditions such as high blood pressure, heart disease and diabetes, or even ignored symptoms that require medical attention.
For example, in the first year of the pandemic, many women deferred their overdue pap smears – necessary for the early identification and treatment of cervical cancer. When women started to return to their doctors to catch up on this important screening exam, we experienced an unusual delay (up to two months) for us to get the results of pap smears from the BC Cancer Agency.
Take this time to consider your total personal health. When did you last check in with your family doctor? Are you due for some screening tests? Do you have concerning symptoms that require medical attention?
As part of the Burnaby Division of Family Practice’s Empowering Patients public health education program, I’ll be giving a free online talk called Making Sense of Symptoms and Screening Tests at 7 p.m. on Thursday, March 31.
I’ll provide an update on adult screening tests that for many of us are long overdue since the beginning of the pandemic and review the symptoms that should prompt a visit to your doctor.
For more information or to sign up, please check https://divisionsbc.ca/burnaby/for-patients/empowering-patients
Dr. Davidicus Wong is a family physician. His Healthwise Column appears regularly in this paper. For more on achieving your positive potential in health, read his blog at davidicuswong.wordpress.com.