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Is ‘dynamic distancing’ an ideal COVID-19 re-opening strategy?

Last Updated Jun 24, 2020 at 9:37 am MST

People practise physical distancing at Woodbine Beach in Toronto on Thursday, March 26, 2020. Dialing physical distancing measures up and down could be a way of sustaining the long-term fight against COVID-19 while not crushing the economy, a new study from Ontario researchers suggests. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette

The House of Commons health committee heard from experts about dynamic distancing on Tuesday

Dynamic distancing is already being adopted by the likes of South Korea and Taiwan

TORONTO – Reopening the economy and moving on to new strategic phases, provincially, doesn’t mean we can throw away all the restrictions put in place to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

So what is the best exit strategy from the government-imposed pandemic lockdowns? How do we avoid a second wave?

Experts have and continue to warn people that now is not the time to let your guard down, even if it does seem like the coronavirus situation is improving.

The physical distancing rule of two metres apart is still a big part of our lives, even if that rule is being relaxed to one metre in places like the United Kingdom.

There has also been a lot of talk about mandatory mask-wearing.

Related story: ‘Dynamic’ physical distancing could help balance COVID-19 fight, economy: study

However, “dynamic distancing” is another option being presented. The House of Commons health committee heard from experts about it on Tuesday.

The practice is already being adopted by the likes of South Korea and Taiwan, and means that as restrictions are lifted, communities must be ready to re-impose physical distancing and socially restrictive measures periodically if there are surges in disease activity.

The idea is to contain outbreaks and allow economic revitalization to continue at the same time.

In April, researchers from the University of Toronto and the University of Guelph suggested so-called “dynamic physical distancing.”

“Ether practised alone or combined with testing and tracing of contacts among infected individuals,” the idea seems to be more effective than physical distancing that was imposed for a fixed period of time, in the places it’s been tried.

They also said that dynamic distancing could help keep the health-care system from becoming overwhelmed while allowing “periodic psychological and economic respite for populations.”