OPINION: Canada Is Winning the COVID-19 Battle, But There Is No Room For Complacency

By Uzodinma Ukagwu

We are only just past the half-way mark, but 2020 has been a historically difficult and tragic year. COVID-19 continues to ravage the world, leaving many in its wake sick and dead. There are now over 14.5 million cases worldwide, and approximately 606,000 deaths. 

Cases continue to grow in many countries around the world. The United States, Canada’s closest neighbour, currently has  approximately a quarter of the world’s cases and deaths, reporting over 60,000 cases daily.

Now that we have the pandemic fairly under control in Canada, we cannot afford to ease up on efforts to prevent the spread of this virus. We only need to look south of the border to see what complacency in tackling this virus leads to. 

Canada has also been hit hard by the pandemic. More than 8000 Canadians have died, and over 100,000 have tested positive for the virus. At the height of the first wave two months ago, we were registering over 1500 cases per day. Daily cases are now below 300.

“The pandemic has exposed the poor conditions in some of Canada’s long-term care homes…”

Despite our close proximity to the United States, where cases continue to grow exponentially, Canada has managed to turn its trajectory and flatten the curve. This has been achieved through remarkable cooperation by all levels of government, strict public assembly rules, border controls, and a citizenry willing to listen to the experts and make sacrifices to combat the spread of the virus.

It has not, however, been all smooth sailing. Our biggest and most costly failure was our inability to control initial outbreaks in long-term care facilities. By the end of May, deaths in long-term care homes were more than 70 per cent of total deaths in Ontario, Quebec, Alberta; and 97 per cent of deaths in Nova Scotia, and about 80 per cent of total deaths in Canada. 

This pandemic has exposed the poor conditions in some of Canada’s long-term care homes, and moving forward there is no doubt that Canadians will be paying close attention to see how the provincial and federal governments address this problem.

Experts have predicted a second wave, but I don’t think this is inevitable in Canada. 

Provincial governments must continue to enforce strict guidelines on public gatherings and monitor business compliance. Schools should also remain closed till the end of the year to keep staff and students safe. 

The Canadian government must also, at all costs, resist pressure from the United States government and keep the border closed until the pandemic is over. Opening the border at this time would be counterproductive and make it more difficult to control the virus, especially as cases surge in the States.

One more issue of equal importance is financial support for Canadians at this time. The federal government must keep the money flowing. 

“We can prevent infections from growing and keep the curve flat.”

Trudeau recently announced the extension of the emergency wage subsidy program until December.

Furthermore, the Canadian Emergency Response Benefit (CERB), which has been the backbone of the government’s economic response, was recently extended to 24 weeks. This, too, will need to be extended again if the pandemic continues until the end of the year. Ensuring Canadians have money in their pockets to meet their immediate needs is key to discouraging problematic behaviour and protecting each individual’s basic dignity. 

If we all continue to make sacrifices and aggressively contain this virus, we can prevent infections from growing and keep the curve flat.

For individuals, this means continuing to limit social interaction with your immediate family and work, if unable to work from home. 

Businesses must also continue to allow as many employees as possible to work from home. For those that need to be at work, they must ensure employees have proper personal protective equipment, and can practice social distancing.

If we all continue to play our part and make these sacrifices, we can keep this pandemic under control, and prevent further needless loss of life. For our collective good as a country, we all need to redouble our efforts and remain vigilant.

Copyright© 2020 by Uzodinma Ukagwu

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