What will "living with the virus" mean in Canada?
At a press conference on Friday, February 11, federal Health Minister Jean-Yves Duclos described the conditions that would make "living with the virus" possible in Canada.
Officials have begun to throw the phrase around to describe the next phase of health measures. In a remarkable move, Quebec Premier François Legault said on February 8 that a slow withdrawal of many of the most stringent restrictions means that Quebecers could see something resembling a "more normal life" by mid-March.
Duclos on Friday listed seven points guiding the federal government's approach toward cohabitation with the COVID-19 virus without severe interruption to daily life.
First, he said, "living with the virus" plainly means that COVID-19 deaths decrease and, second, that the health system is able to "coexist" with the virus without the "paralyzing" effects on care that have defined the last two years, including the postponement of cancer surgeries.
The federal government is also looking to "optimize" strategies for limiting infections. Duclos said the country already has "numerous tools so that the [health] measures are less severe and disrupt as little as possible our social lives, our economy and our personal lives." He called vaccination the greatest among those tools.
All the while, he continued, Canadians should recognize that the pandemic may continue to present "bad surprises."
The health minister's final two points were more like affirmations than conditions for the return to "more normal life," but they nevertheless hint at the kind of frame of mind the government seems to want to encourage.
"To live with the virus," Duclos said, "is to recognize that we can't live without the virus," but that "we are not powerless" before it.
The statements echoed Premier Legault's assertion that the time is coming for Quebecers to "evaluate their own risks" without the confines of legal restrictions.
"We have collectively and individually the power to change things," Duclos said, referring specifically to vaccination.
Finally, the health minister committed to "reinforce" Canada's vaccination campaign before potential new variants emerged and waves of infection hit the country.