Today’s coronavirus news: Sudbury’s health unit expects ‘bumpy’ transition as pandemic restrictions eased

The latest coronavirus news from Canada and around the world Friday. This file will be updated throughout the day. Web links to longer stories if available.

7:45 a.m.: BC’s remedy for bringing more foreign-trained doctors into the medical profession has been delayed, sidelining potential candidates and prolonging pressure on the province’s health system, advocates say.

The Institute for Canadian Citizenship, which helps newcomers and people seeking citizenship, estimates there are thousands of foreign-trained doctors whose qualifications have allowed them to be fast-tracked to Canadian citizenship, but provincial regulators refuse to recognize their credentials.

The College of Physicians and Surgeons of British Columbia proposed the new role of associate physician in April 2020 to address the province’s health-care needs, allowing doctors who weren’t eligible for a full license to work under physician supervision.

It said the plan would help address the doctor shortage, utilize the expertise of internationally trained physicians and provide more people with medical care.

But no doctor has yet received the title and the college says the pandemic is behind the delay because of the way it affected surgeries.

“This program was set to launch at the start of the pandemic, but most of the targeted areas were within the surgical disciplines and COVID sort of wiped out much of the surgical capacity, so we haven’t licensed any yet,” said Dr. Heidi Oetter, the registrar at the college.

“Once we can get the program up and running, I would think that we should be seeing dozens of them entering the health-care system in British Columbia.”

7:43 a.m.: Public Health Sudbury and Districts said in its weekly update on Thursday that it will continue to be there for area families and communities as Ontario continues to ease pandemic restrictions.

“While the pandemic is not over, we are transitioning to another phase,” said Medical Officer of Health Dr. Penny Sutcliffe.

“Instead of provincial requirements, most people will be expected to make decisions and choices that are best for their own circumstances. This transition will be bumpy as people’s circumstances are all different.”

Sutcliffe said she knows communities will tap into their reserves of “mutual respect, kindness, and patience” as we navigate the next phase of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Public health officials in Greater Sudbury are strongly recommending that residents continue to wear face masks as the provincial government further eases COVID-19 restrictions.

“Our collective response to COVID-19 has required us to tap into personal resources we might not have imagined we had,” she said. “We have been innovative, compassionate, resilient, and determined. Getting to this point has not been easy, but now more than ever, we know what we need to do to stay safe.”

Saturday 7:39 a.m.: The Ontario government will be lifting mask mandates in most settings on March 21 and is set to drop all mandates by the end of April.

Dr. Kieran Moore, the province’s chief medical officer of health, announced the new changes in a press conference on Wednesday (March 9).

“We are now learning to live with and manage COVID-19 for the long term,” said Moore. “This necessitates a shift to a more balanced response to the pandemic.”

As of March 21, masks will no longer be required in most indoor settings such as restaurants, schools, gyms, and large event spaces. However, the mandatory mask mandate will remain in higher-risk settings including public transit, long-term care and retirement homes, hospitals, jails, and congregate living settings.

Moore cautioned on Wednesday that removing the mask mandate “does not mean the risk is gone.”

I have noted the possible need to reinstate mask mandates if there is an increase in COVID-19 cases, if a variant of concern emerges or potentially during the winter months.

“We should all be prepared that we might need to resume mask wearing,” said Moore, who also added he recommends the continued use of masks for those most vulnerable to the virus.

Read Friday’s coronavirus news.


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