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COVID-19 can spread in restaurants, infectious disease expert says

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While the province has repeatedly said little spread of COVID-19 is happening within the hospitality sector, Asadi says it’s not that simple.

She says contact tracing, which helps identify where transmission occurred, is very challenging and governments can’t rely on just their own data, they need to be looking at other jurisdictions.

In the United States, for example, there are studies using location data from mobile phones that show bars, restaurants and hotels have been sources of COVID-19 transmission.

“I don’t think that we can say, ‘Oh, because we didn’t see that many transmissions before, the transmissions didn’t occur.’ I question whether the retrospective contact tracing that we did was sufficient to allow us to know where exactly our transmissions were happening,” Asadi said.

Asadi uses the example of someone visiting a poorly ventilated restaurant while sick to illustrate the difficulties of contact tracing.

“You don’t know who the others were in that space,” Asadi said. “Even if you told your contact tracer, even if you remembered, ‘I went to Restaurant A some seven days ago,’ only if the other contact tracers are kind of like pooling that data and looking at it to try to find those links, could they discern that.”

Asadi stressed it’s not the fault of the establishments when they follow the rules and take precautions, yet transmission of COVID-19 still occurs.

“The virus is really sneaky. If it was super easy to control, we wouldn’t have this pandemic throughout the whole world,” Asadi said, adding at a time like this, it is essential to close down restaurants and bars.

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