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“I am a Canadian, free to speak without fear, free to worship in my own way, free to stand for what I think right, free to oppose what I believe wrong, or free to choose those who shall govern my country. This heritage of freedom I pledge to uphold for myself and all mankind.” ~~ John G. Diefenbaker

FELDSTED – Points to Ponder (Part One)


99% of us awoke this morning with no more that the usual aches and pains some of us have acquired through wear and tear.


The people of my generation drank from a hose, rode bikes without chain guards or helmets on gravel roads, climbed trees (and fell out), used willow sticks to propel mud balls at targets, played ball without gloves, played hockey without shin guards or gloves, played football without armor. We froze our toes skating on outdoor rinks, drank and drove, smoked like chimneys, survived chicken pox, a couple of varieties measles, whooping cough, colds, the flu, pneumonia, and are still here.

The 1918 influenza epidemic infected an estimated 500 million people -- or about one third of the world population at the time -- and resulted in about 50 million deaths.

The polio virus first hit Canada in 1910. That virus hung around for decades, sometimes dormant sometimes not. Between 1949 and 1954 about 11,000 Canadians were left paralyzed. In 1959 there were nearly 2,000 new cases. The Salk vaccine was introduced in 1955, and polio was under control by the early 1970s. Canada was not declared polio free until 1994.

We had an influenza epidemic in 1957-58 that killed about 7,000 people when our population was only about 17 million.

In 1981 we were struck by the AIDS epidemic. It has claimed about 27,500 victims to date and is still a serious problem.

In 2003 we had a SARS epidemic that infected over 8,000 people and killed 44. We survived SARS but ignored the lessons it gave us.

When the threat diminished, we didn’t keep up vaccine research or stockpile equipment for a future epidemic. We didn’t plan for or train medical and other front-line personnel for how to respond to the next major virus threat. We did not plan for how to deal with a future serious communicable disease.

In 2009 we had the H1N1 epidemic that claimed 428 people.  

The notion that we cannot reopen society until we have developed a vaccine and immunized the population is unrealistic. It took 15 years from the development of a vaccine until polio was under control. Reopening society will result in more coronavirus cases, but we lose an average of about 3,500 people to influenza (flu) each year despite having flu vaccines available.
 
We did not shut down our economy to deal with any of these past epidemics.

Government officials, telling us that the Coronavirus is “unprecedented”, are complaining that is all new to them and they don’t know what to do.

The federal government muffed it, pretending that the threat was low when it was high. Provinces stepped up and took measures to protect us, but they were late in the game and are combating a virus already embedded in our society. Drastic action was needed and implemented because action was delayed, and we were already under siege when we acted.

Coronavirus is nothing to fool with and although measures to control the virus spread may seem extreme, past experience shows that half-measures don’t work. However, measure to counter the rapid spread of a virus is the initial defense. 


We need to regroup and redeploy our forces to deal with the virus on a longer-term basis. There is no way forward without risk. We need to find a balance between health and economic risk factors.

Dr Theresa Tam - Chief Public
Health Officer of Canada
People have to have jobs and an income to afford basic necessities. Their health and well being is at risk if we don’t get back to normal social functions relatively quickly. We have become too fearful of coronavirus to properly consider the financial and psychological risks of prolonged isolation from our peers. We have to balance the probable risks of virus infection against the certain detriments of isolation and poverty.              

The federal chief medical officer, Dr. Theresa Tam is too political for credibility. In the early days, her primary concern was the possibility that people of Chinese ancestry might be stigmatized. It never occurred to her that a contagious virus is not discriminatory; it will infect any human without mercy irrespective of age, colour, gender, heritage or race. Political correctness trumped logic and reason.

In early February, Health Canada Officials warned that Canada couldn’t enforce a coronavirus quarantine for travellers from China. Officials, including Dr. Tam, said there were roughly 20,000 passengers coming into Canada from China every week and that attempting to enforce or track a mandatory quarantine on them would be unrealistic. We did not have the resources to do so.
 
The obvious alternative of blocking passenger traffic from China and elsewhere to protect Canada from infection was not even considered. That set the stage for the crises we face.   

We can only control some things, and we need to focus on issues and matters within our control. We can’t control virus outbreaks or our climate. We can only control how we respond to these threats and do our best to minimize their impact.

We are victims of failure to plan for protecting ourselves from the next epidemic ... and ensuring that we have the plans and supplies ready to go when an epidemic is on the horizon.

We need to have quarters available in every major city and town so that people who can’t (or won’t) isolate at home can be quarantined while they can transmit a disease.

Effectively quarantining all citizens has serious economic and social consequences and is likely not the most intelligent approach to combatting an epidemic. Please keep in mind:

“The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary” ~~ H. L. Mencken

“There are some ideas so absurd that only an intellectual could believe them” ~~ George Orwell


John Feldsted is a political commentator, consultant, and strategist. He makes his home in Winnipeg, Manitoba

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