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  • Dr. Sandor Demeter Associate Prof U o M

Proud To Be Canadian

There have been stark international differences on managing the COVID-19 pandemic. Strategies range from strict state driven lock downs and enforcement (China), laissez faire approaches (UK and USA), a - this is just a “mild flu” and we may have natural immunity approach (Brazil), and everything in between.

There are ample detailed sources of scientific information and I would refer people to Health Canada for details (Health Canada).

Current measures to “flatten the curve” include - self isolation, testing, social/physical distancing, avoiding group gatherings, copious hand washing, closing non-essential services and other administrative, engineering and personal protective equipment strategies.

The benefits of this strategy are - reduced community spread, spreading out severe cases requiring hospital/ICU care to preserve the health care systems ability to cope and ultimately, reducing the number of COVID-19 related deaths.

The downside of this strategy are - social isolation which may negatively impact on mental and spiritual health, erosion of provincial and national economies, economic hardships to individuals, and generalized fear and anxiety especially when bombarded with 24/7 “COVID-19” news (e.g. a 10% case fatality rate in Italy with Spain following close behind – yikes!).

As much as science drives how pandemics are managed societal values also play a critical role. Does a society put the economy above people? This may seem cold and calculated but it does fit with Boris Johnson’s former strategy of solving the problem by achieving “herd immunity”.

To achieve herd immunity a large portion of the population, that is 70+%, would need to contract COVID-19. This would be at the expense of the elderly and otherwise unhealthy folks as these groups experience case fatality rates of 20+% versus the general population which sits at between 1% – 5 % (~ 1% for Canada at present). Achieving herd immunity would allow society to start returning to normal activities sooner, but at the expense the old and vulnerable.

On the face of it some countries seem to be more worried about their economies versus their people.

I am relieved that Canada does not fall into this category. What I have seen to date is a balanced approach of first protecting people while still recognizing and providing programs to help ameliorate the economic impact of riding out this pandemic.

The situation is fluid and best practices are continually being refined as the pandemic unfolds. It is worth remembering that the world has not faced such a pandemic since the “Spanish Flu” of 1918 which killed over 40 million! To put this into perspective SARS, also caused by a corona virus, killed less than a thousand (source). So far COVID-19 has killed ~ 34,000 at the time of posting.

Under Quarantine and Public Health legislation the federal and provincial governments have authority to strongly enforce pandemic countermeasures. Despite this, there appears to be an even-handed approach with voluntary compliance being the modus operandi and enforcement being the exception.

Our front-line essential services, from health care workers to grocery store and gas station clerks, have stepped up and are greatly appreciated.

I am proud of the Canadian approach to the COVID-19 pandemic. As Canadians we have a culture where we provide health and social services as needed and without potentially catastrophic economic burdens to the affected individual. We have a culture where health care is considered a universal right versus a charity.

I am not saying that everything will work out well for everyone. We will continue to lose loved ones to this virus, and we may not get back to normal for months. In fact, with the current "flatten the curve" strategy we may not get back to normal until a vaccine is available. However, how we react as a nation defines us.

So, during this time of "staying at home" be proud to be Canadian. Take time to recognize what is important in your life. Perhaps you will have a new “normal” when we come the other end.

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