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History will ultimately tell us where effective measures were taken and where they were not in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. This speaks to the leadership of elected and non-elected (Dictators, the WHO etc.) leaders everywhere. Many have described the current situation as a “vacuum of leadership” which will cost many more lives than necessary.
From the mixed messages by U.S. President Trump who had stated that it was just the flu and that it would miraculously go away when the weather warmed to Brazil’s Bolsonaro calling COVID-19 “a little flu”, too many leaders are putting lives in danger. Slow action, indecision and mixed messages is not what is required in times of crisis.
The situation for Canada has been one that can only be characterized as weak. From the start of our response in early January, MPs were questioning Canada’s inaction. Chief Public Health Officer of Canada Dr. Theresa Tam had stated “It’s going to be rare” when referring to COVID-19 cases.
In mid-January, the WHO tweeted that there was no evidence of human to human transmission and no infections among health care workers.
By Jan 22, Canada implemented screening for travelers returning from China to 3 major airports. Compare this to Taiwan which inspected all passengers coming into their country starting Dec 31 and on Jan 22 & 23 canceled entry permits for tourists and banned Wuhan residents from entry.
On Jan 24, the WHO was STILL advising against travel bans and the day after Canada confirmed its first case of COVID-19
The response in Canada? Jan 25 saw our leaders took the bold move to include messages on screens at 3 international airports REMINDING travelers to inform Border Services if they are feeling ill.
Jan 26 saw another decisive step by Canada to ADVISE against “non-essential travel” to Wuhan, the same day China essentially quarantined the entire region. The day after, Taiwan had integrated 14 day travel history in their citizen’s patient data.
Repeatedly MPs asked about what measures were being taken to protect Canadians and voiced concerns. Repeatedly the response included quoting the WHO, making note of message boards & handouts and a comment that “the epidemic of fear could be more difficult to control than the epidemic itself.” We as citizens of this nation have been firmly placed as a second priority behind the recommendations of the WHO and fear of displeasing them.
Dr. Tam stated that our first line of defense is our hospitals and not our borders. A view clearly not shared by Taiwan, Australia or China and one that has proven deadly (so far) to Quebec and Ontario.
Moving into February and we see Taiwan fining people for breaking quarantine ($10,000 US) and Canada seeing cases in 6 provinces. At the same time we are told that the risk to Canadians remains low and that it is less feasible to close our borders. Dr. Howard Njoo – Deputy Chief Public Health Officer stated that “We have contained the virus” with only 12 cases to date and “closing the borders has never proven to be effective.” Taiwan may disagree.
On February 27, a letter penned by 23 doctors (in Canada FOR Canada) urging a 14-day quarantine for everyone returning to Canada from China and other COVID-19 hot spots.
The WHO releases a statement concerned with the “economic and social impact” while many call on them to make recommendations based on science.
Moving into March we see the Trudeau’s posting photos with celebrities to Instagram and touting our open borders the day before Canada’s first confirmed COVID-19 related death.
Health Minister Patty Hajdu states that travelers are being carefully screened while other travelers are calling their MPs to complain there is NO screening actually happening. The response from Hajdu… praise for our people at the border, clearly avoiding the issue at hand. Praise IS warranted, but so are decisive actions and providing those people at the border with the necessary tool.
March 11 the World Health Organization declares the global outbreak of COVID-19 a pandemic.
Dr. Tam states that the mortality rate for this virus is just under 1 percent. A number we now know is grossly inaccurate depending on how you are doing your calculations. Many countries such as Russia have not been calculating all the deaths citing instead other underlying issues. The numbers out of John Hopkins University show that the mortality rate is now under 6% of total cases with other sources showing 21% of closed cases.
March 13 PM Trudeau again defends our open borders but 3 days later the federal government announces that Canada is closing its borders and advises Canadians returning home should voluntarily self-isolate for 14 days. He further goes on to state “From the very beginning, Canada’s response has been based on the latest available science and advice.” Unfortunately, that is simply NOT true. Science clearly showed that extreme measures needed to be taken. This was first expressed by Doctor Li Wenliang on Dec 30, 2019 who later succumbed to the illness. With over 81,000 dead so far world wide, perhaps we should heed this advice.
On March 17, Public Safety Minister Bill Blair stated that Canada would continue to allow in irregular border crossers and pledges to screen them for COVID-19 and put them in quarantine.
March 19 saw Taiwan’s VP lashing out at China and the WHO indicating that they had reports from Chinese doctors about person to person transmissions. Unfortunately, Taiwan is not able to share this information via international channels due to their standing in the WHO.
March 30 shows us that Austria has made wearing masks in public compulsory and the CDC in the US is recommending home made masks as a measure to slow the spread.
As we move into April, we see a number of developments. The word “fluid” is popular among politicians, of which there are few who are taking the strong messages necessary to save lives.
Over 96% of Americans are now under stay at home orders. Orders… Not suggestions or pleading. ORDERS. In Canada we are asked nicely and then there are suggestions and then strong suggestions. This has proven not to work. Without a stay at home ORDER, this is just a holiday.
According to a government document obtained by the National Post, “Current GoC [Government Operations Centre] modelling suggests as a best case scenario that current measures continue until at least July.” Unfortunately our “current measures” are mostly suggestions with the exception of most provinces closing non-essential businesses. It is likely there will soon be more declarations of states of emergency following Nova Scotia.
Ontario released projections on April 3 revealing COVID-19 could kill 3,000 – 15,000 people in that province with the effects of multiple waves lasting 18-24 months. Projections from Ottawa? We have none. It seems as those are a secret. After all, why would you want to inform the electorate? They might not click “like”.
COVID-19 does not respect borders. Experts have said the best weapon against COVID-19 is to stay at home, yet there is no strong action from our leaders.
U.S. recorded its highest daily death toll at 1100 deaths on Friday. This will likely be eclipsed by the time this goes to print. In New York, one of the largest hot spots in the U.S., Governor Cuomo stated “We have been behind the virus since day one” and the Mayor of New York stated they have enough ventilators to last only until the end of the week as well as medical supplies running low. New York state recorded 731 new coronavirus deaths, marking its biggest single-day jump, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Tuesday. There will be more losses.
Vice Admiral Jerome Davis – U.S. Surgeon General stated Sunday “The week ahead will be like a Pearl Harbor or 9/11 moment”. Additionally U.S. experts expect things to peak in June or July. Half measures and suggestions that things will go back to normal sooner do nothing to stem the tide. Close to home we see this from both President Trump and PM Trudeau.
We are witnessing in real-time failures of national leadership. Failures that are costing lives and likely making this drag on longer.
Ontario Premier Doug Ford has resisted a complete lock down in Ontario but has recently questioned the National Emergency Strategic Stockpile (NESS) when he stated “They don’t have a big warehouse full of items” and stated that Ontario was down to only one week of masks and other PPE for frontline workers. As evidence of our PMs admiration for China, our federal government has supplied Ontario with less material than they donated to China at the beginning of February.
The most frustrating thing for me is hearing from those offering as a defense of weak measures and lack of decisions that “hindsight is 20/20”. We don’t need hindsight. We have science and facts from Italy, South Korea and Taiwan as well as the states of California and Washington. We have playbooks and we know what works. Everywhere there was success, strong measures were put in place clearly and concisely.
Dr. Carlos Del Rio (infectious diseases) from Emory University in the U.S. has gone on records stating “We should have started these measures months ago.” He was referring partly to domestic manufacturing of masks and ventilators. Yet… here we are. Weak measures from Ottawa and Washington.
There is no doubt that this is horrible. We may be insulated by rural boundaries, but people are still coming and going for various reasons. Perhaps we need to shutdown all travel and borders as suggested by on BC group concerned about Albertans crossing their borders. Military & Sheriffs running check stops and turning people back if they are not on the road to an approved destination sounds draconian, but it is one of the things that worked in France and Italy to stem the outbreak.
Last week when I wrote my article, we were at around 724,000 infections worldwide. A week later as of this article we are at 1,418,730. On closed cases… the death rate is up to 21% from 18% last week.
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