On March 11th, 2020, the WHO (World Health Organization) officially declared COVID-19 a global pandemic. Below is some insight into how the virus has impacted Canadians, how it has shaped the way we live our lives, how vaccines are now crucial in helping prevent transmission, and what we can take from everything we’ve learned in the last year as we move forward.

First Case of COVID-19 in Canada

The first case of SARS-CoV-2 was found in a Toronto man who had recently travelled to Wuhan, China – the epicentre of the COVID-19 outbreak – and was announced by Health Canada on January 25th, 2020. As a result, new screening measures were implemented at several Canadian airports (Vancouver, Toronto and Montreal) for any passengers who were exhibiting flu-like symptoms.

On January 28th, 2020, British Columbia became the second Canadian province to confirm a case of COVID-19 – also related to travel. On March 5th, 2020, B.C. announced its first case of community transmission, followed by a State of Emergency declaration on March 18th (which remains in effect.)

Social Connections, Shutdowns and Travel

As scientists learned more about COVID-19, it was discovered that one of the easiest ways the virus was transmitting was through having close contact with an infected individual – through respiratory droplets and aerosols that are created when the infected person talks, coughs, sneezes, shouts, sings, etc. While we were all used to having close social connections with others – whether at work, home, school, or elsewhere in the community – those very social connections had to be significantly limited, with the recommendation that individuals keep at least 6 feet (2 metres) apart from others. As the virus progressed, health orders were put in place across many Canadian provinces and other parts of the world that limited or restricted social gatherings and who we could spend time with.

Many popular events, such as Vancouver’s PNE (Pacific National Exhibition), as well as live concerts, did not go as planned and had to be cancelled or postponed indefinitely, while retailers closed temporarily, and restaurants switched to a takeout-only model. For a list of British Columbia’s current restrictions, click here.

When it comes to travel, several provincial and territorial restrictions are in place along with other Canadian border restrictions. In British Columbia, it is recommended that non-essential travel be avoided for the time being.

The Impact on Mental Health

With certain restrictions in place, many individuals found the lack of social connection with others to have a significant impact on their mental health – exacerbating things like stress and anxiety, as well as causing individuals to feel isolated. As a result, Canada saw a significant uptick in requests for mental health services. If you or someone you know is struggling with their mental health, the Canadian Mental Health Association has a list of national programs and services available on their website at CMHA.ca.

Vaccines

The vaccines created to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 were some of the quickest that any vaccine had been developed. While there are several different types of COVID-19 vaccines, those currently approved for use in Canada include the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, Moderna vaccine, the AstraZeneca vaccine, as well as the Johnson & Johnson vaccine – with others under review. Each province has its own vaccine plan. You can find British Columbia’s vaccine plan, and information on how to register for your vaccine, by clicking here.