As British Columbia deals with its second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry remains unsure she can reassure conspiracy theorists to take the virus seriously.
Nearly a thousand people gathered in Vancouver on Saturday afternoon for the Freedom Mega Rally, a two-day event with planned speakers and marchers, aimed at protesting mandatory mask policies, lockdowns and potential COVID-19 vaccines.
Similar demonstrations have taken place across the country in recent months, garnering national attention.
During Monday’s provincial press conference, Henry fielded questions regarding her response to people who still believe COVID-19 is a hoax, or hold anti-mask views.
“I’m not sure that I can reassure a small group of people, and I would emphasize that,” she says, referring to the actual number of conspiracy theorists in the general population.
“Though they may be quite visible, we know that the vast majority of people in B.C. are doing the right thing, and they’ve done that continuously from the beginning.”
Henry believes many anti-mask activists have taken strategies used by anti-vaccine activists and applied them to the concept of masks.
She says there are some people who label COVID-19 a hoax as a way of coping with the unfamiliar, and pointed to American politics as an influencing factor.
“Sometimes when there’s challenges that you don’t understand, some people’s reaction is to go along with the conspiracy theories that are out there, and we know this happens with anti-vaccine activists. I know a lot of it reflects some of the political rhetoric, unfortunately, from our neighbours to the South.”
British Columbians are in a position to understand the virus lives in communities, and that the province has the means to deal with it, says Henry.
She encourages B.C. residents to continue following safety guidelines and interact with one another respectfully and graciously during this time.
“Remember what we’ve been talking about all along – that we don’t always know where another person is coming from, and we need to remain calm. We need to accept they may have a view that we don’t agree with and we need to step away from the conflict.”
– with files from CTV News Vancouver
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