COVID-19 Policies, Vaccine Passports Need to Be ‘Re-Examined’ to Return to Normalcy, Tam Says

COVID-19 Policies, Vaccine Passports Need to Be ‘Re-Examined’ to Return to Normalcy, Tam Says
Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Theresa Tam is seen via videoconference as Minister of Health Jean-Yves Duclos looks on, during a news conference on the COVID-19 pandemic and the omicron variant in Ottawa on Jan. 7, 2022. (The Canadian Press/Justin Tang)
Isaac Teo

Canada’s Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Teresa Tam says all COVID-19 policies, including provincial vaccine passports, need to be “re-examined” as the virus is here to stay for months or even years.

“What we do need to do, going forward as we emerge from the Omicron wave, is to recognize that this virus is not going to disappear and we need to be able to address the ongoing presence of the SARS-CoV-2 virus in a more sustainable way,” Tam said in a virtual press briefing on Feb. 4.

Tam made the comment while acknowledging that the virus will morph into different variants and forms with various degrees of risk in the future.

“Some will actually be quite severe or disruptive and we need to be ready for them. But we do need to have more longer-term sustained approaches and capacity-building so that we’re not in crisis mode all the time as we fight this virus,” she said.

Tam said the Public Health Agency of Canada has already started discussions with counterparts at the provincial and territorial levels to determine the possible path forward. They will review the existing “suite of measures” that have impacted people’s daily lives for the past two years.

“Vaccine mandates of course primarily are related to provincial jurisdiction, and I do think these measures should be evaluated going forward,” she said.

But the challenge for the provinces is to find the right balance between containing the virus and returning to a sense of normalcy, Tam said.

“I do think that prior to vaccinations, prior to getting some more treatments, and of course some immunity afforded by Omicron, that balance was very, very difficult to achieve,'' she said.

“I am optimistic that it will become easier to achieve better balance.”

Several provinces have signalled their intention to do away with some, if not all, remaining COVID-19 health restrictions.

On Feb. 3, Alberta Premier Jason Kenney said his government will set a “firm date” next week to end the province’s vaccine passport, as well as announcing a phased plan to drop almost all COVID-restriction by the end of the month, provided the pressure on the hospitals continues to decrease.

Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe said on Feb. 2 that he’s committed to soon ending all COVID-19 restrictions that infringe on people’s rights and freedoms.
Meanwhile, Ontario’s Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Kieran Moore said at a press conference on Feb. 3 that the province will reassess the value of its vaccine certificate in “the coming weeks and months,” as the current COVID-19 vaccine “doesn’t provide the sterile immunity” for the Omicron variant that it did against Delta.
The Canadian Press contributed to this report.