Drivers Asleep at the Wheel: Canada’s Coronavirus Response
Canadians can be forgiven for scratching their heads in bewilderment these days. After having been told by Health Minister Patty Hajdu in January through early March that the risk to Canada from COVID-19 was “low”, it came as a shock to hear this past week of an expected 11,000 to 25,000 deaths in a best-case scenario, and up to 300,000 deaths in the worst case.
On issue after issue relating to the pandemic, whether on the question of human-to-human transmission, the effectiveness of travel bans, mandatory quarantines and the use of face masks by the public, Canada’s Chief Public Health Office Theresa Tam and Health Minister Patty Hajdu have been categorical and wrong time and time again. The root of these blunders is Health Canada’s deference to the World Health Organization, which has been found to be highly political and therefore untrustworthy in its handling of the crisis.
Prior to the crisis, the WHO’s kowtowing to Beijing on issues such as Taiwan’s participation in international forums had already mined global confidence in the organization. Its blind acceptance of data from the Chinese government, for example false information in January about COVID-19 lacking human-to-human transmission, confirmed this impression. If millions of lives and the global economy were not at stake, these missteps could be set aside along with many of the other inane shenanigans emanating from the United Nations and its agencies.
It turns out that Taiwan, excluded as it is from the WHO, knew well how to assess the risk of COVID-19 and did so independently, instituting a barrage of measures early on that have kept the virus under control on the island. The Trudeau government, missing no opportunity for identity politics caricature, refused to ban or even quarantine all incoming Chinese passengers entering Canada from January through March, proclaiming loud and clear that such targeted measures on incoming visitors from China would constitute “racism”. Chinese-Canadians grassroots groups were actually clamouring for such quarantine measures, with organizations in Vancouver helping travellers go into voluntary self-quarantine when arriving from China as early as February. The government’s prioritization of identity politics (and climate change) over other threats was irritating in normal times and has proven downright dangerous in a global pandemic.
Healthcare workers and various levels of government including the federal government are now picking up the pieces and doing what is possible given the current situation. Social distancing measures are showing to have a positive effect, and governments are rolling out dramatic measures to blunt the economic fallout for individuals and businesses. Compared to our southern neighbours Canada’s efforts even appear in a positive light. But from December through late March, our drivers were asleep at the wheel.