|In theory, if Canadians would just follow the lead of countries and regions around the world that appear to have handled COVID-19 for now, not only would our health crisis be over, but so would our economic one, writes CBC’s Don Pittis. „Theoretically if you have the possibility of doing a hard lockdown … after nine days you see the effect kick in very reliably,” said Peter Jüni, director of the applied health research centre at Toronto’s St. Michael’s Hospital. „Stuff like that is theoretically possible.”
But in medicine, just as in economics, Jüni said, theory and practice are two different things. While he is encouraged by successes in Asia and Oceania, he’s skeptical that they can be repeated here in Canada. That is because while it is theoretically achievable to stop the disease in its tracks, Jüni believes that is effectively impossible in a climate where people spend so much of their time indoors. „It has an unfortunate tendency in certain situations to become highly contagious in indoor settings,” he said. „When we reach May and we all go outside again, we will be able to keep the thing relatively easily [under control]. But now it’s next to impossible.”
Jüni even worries that Canada’s Atlantic bubble, based on early action, a relatively spread-out population and strict rules about new arrivals, could see a winter outbreak without careful attention. Critics have pointed the finger at businesses and politicians who support them for worrying about short-term profit rather than long-term elimination of the virus, but research by Aya Aboelenien from the University of Montreal’s business school shows there are other issues at play.
„I think the problem is that the public trust in the government is fading,” said Aboelenien. She points to new signs of coronavirus fatigue as businesses are asked to lock down a second time after the first one did not seem to work. Jüni has sympathy for businesses that have suffered serious losses — and he is sympathetic with government officials who honestly do not know the best strategy to follow.
For now, he is convinced that the goal in Canada cannot be the virtual elimination of the virus, but something more moderate: preventing a growth in cases that would fill up hospitals and lead to a public health catastrophe. Now that a vaccine seems feasible before next autumn, Jüni said the important thing is to keep businesses and their customers motivated and people staying within bubbles as much as possible, with the knowledge the reward will come in five months, when we move outside again. „If we can make it to then without ending up in uncontrolled exponential growth, it will get easier.”