Saturday, February 13, 2021

With a third wave looming, Canadian provinces stick to the same tired old script

Here we are, déjà vu all over again.

As the second wave of COVID-19 starts to sputter here in Ontario and Canada as a whole (but is by no means over), the premiers start to open things up economically, laying the groundwork for a new and potentially even more brutal third wave. 

The same thing happened in the summer: cases came down pretty low, and all of a sudden restaurants were open, malls were packed, and hairdressers and nail salons were doing brisk business, all directly against the express advice of a plurality of health advisiers and experts. Unlike Australia, New Zealand, Taiwan, Vietnam and others, which kept strong restrictions and travel bans in place until the numbers of new cases reached ZERO (as long ago as May 2020!), Canada left a simmering number of infections to regroup and build up until a second (and worse) wave very quickly established itself.

Well, despite strident warnings, it's going to happen all over again. Ontario, Quebec, Manitoba and Alberta are all opening up, and plan to open up much further in short order. Yes, cases are still on a general downward trajectory across most of the country, although there is a still ober 3,000 cases a day, a third of them in Ontario. Meanwhile, the new variants (no longer so new - we know all about them) from the UK, South Africa and Brazil are already here and ready to run rampart. Newfoundland, which has done pretty good job thus far of keeping a lid on the spread of the virus, is in full panic mode, as the new variants spread faster than anyone could have imagined. And it's coming to a mall near you!

The medical establishmemt is doing its best to warn against unfettered liberalization, now of all times, using language like, "we're playing chicken with COVID", "opening indoor dining is a mistake, plain and simple", "the prudent thing to do would be to go slow and see what happens after a few weeks", "this is not the time to really begin pulling back on restrictions", etc, etc.

I understand that the premiers have to weigh lockdowns with mental health considerations and the health of the economy (and the latter seems to be more top of mind for most conservative premiers). But the bottom line is that, if we open up now, a third wave will break upon us, before the second is even over, complete with full lockdown and even more severe restrictions than we have now. And then how will the economy be looking?

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