The federal government has laid out a roadmap for "life after vaccination," which could result in family gatherings and some indoor activities resuming in the fall.
"I think having an aspirational target is really a good thing for everyone to aim for," Dr. Theresa Tam, Canada’s chief public health officer said.
What will summer rules look like after one vaccine dose?
In the summer, if 75 per cent of eligible individuals receive their first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine and 20 per cent have all two doses, restrictions can start to lift, while still being based on local conditions.
Some activities that could resume in the summer include small outdoor gatherings, camping, hiking, picnics and being on patios. Large crowds should still be avoided and individual public health measures like physical distancing and wearing a mask will be required.
Dr. Tam stressed that it is still important for everyone to receive both doses of a COVID-19 vaccine.
"One dose of a two-dose vaccine series is not enough to maximize protection," she said. "We need to aim for at least 75 per cent of everyone who is eligible for vaccination getting fully vaccinated, we can’t go half way."
"What the difference is between this summer and the previous one is that we stand a much better chance of having an outdoor summer that doesn't lead to a resurgence in an indoor fall."
What will fall rules look like after two vaccine doses?
In the fall, if 75 per cent of eligible individuals are fully vaccinated more public health measures can lift, including indoor gatherings with people from multiple households. The Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) specifically called out that Canadians should be able to attend colleges, indoor sports and family gatherings.
"However, COVID-19 will not be eliminated so you will still need to follow some public health measures," PHAC still warns.
The focus in the spring is to continue to follow public health measures in an effort to lower case counts, with more people receiving a COVID-19 shot.
While hitting certain vaccine targets are a core aspect of this roadmap, Canada's chief public health officer stressed that there are a number of other indicator to look at, including getting transmission controlled, the reproductive number, healthcare capacity, and testing, tracing and isolation capacity to detect any resurgences.
When can Canadians stop wearing masks?
Dr. Tam indicated that from a "public health community perspective," she expects masks to be the last of the protections to be removed. This comes after the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced that fully vaccinated individuals do not need to wear a mask indoors.
"I think we have to slowly and surely ease the more restrictive measures, those shutdowns and stay-at-home orders, those are the really key things that we need to really avoid as a community, as a population, and not have a resurgence as soon as you release them," she said. "That is the primary objective moving towards the fall."
"Moving into the fall is when you go indoors and we have to be very careful when we're going indoors, even with 75 per cent coverage, 25 per cent of people may not be covered."
Dr. Tam added that she hopes to give further guidance to people in terms of their individual risk reductions, based on their personal circumstances and their ability to control their environment.
When asked why Canada's plan seems to be slower than international jurisdictions, specifically the U.K. where about 54 per cent of the population has received a first dose and about 28 per cent have received their second dose. The U.K. plans to loosen restrictions on social contacts on Monday and on June 21, the U.K. government said it will remove all rules around social contacts.
Dr. Tam identified that Canada's epidemic picture has been much different than the U.K.
"The U.K., if you sort of look back at their epidemic trajectory, they crushed that curve, that very massive third wave, to very low levels by the time they got to that kind of vaccine coverage," she said. "You need to look at both of those parameters."
"At this point in time, provinces might be reaching some of these vaccine coverage levels that the U.K. was seeing when they were lifting, but their epidemic picture is completely different. We’re still just beginning to peak on this third wave in many different provinces and territories."