Health experts who have been critical of Ontario Premier Doug Ford’s approach in curbing the spread of COVID-19 are now banding together to push for a more ‘aggressive’ strategy that would see more restrictions for a longer period of time.
The #COVIDZero strategy, compared to ‘ripping off a band-aid’, would see one single lockdown with stringent measures implemented until the number of coronavirus cases in Ontario hits zero.
Dr. Andrew Morris, an infectious disease expert with Sinai Health, says the province’s current colour-coded assessment system will not be enough to stamp out COVID-19 — because Ontario eases restrictions as soon as the case numbers drop, which only allows them to jump right back up.
“We’re pursuing a strategy that’s absolutely demonstrated to fail,” said Morris. “It inevitably leads us to nothing close to zero (cases)… and then we’ll ease restrictions and it’ll bounce back up again.
“The problems with colour-coded systems is that they encourage you to tolerate low levels of disease which inevitably get out of hand. The cases are almost certainly going to continue to rise for the foreseeable future until we take more aggressive action.”
Morris said that ‘aggressive action’ in the #COVIDZero approach would not only implement stricter restrictions for a longer period of time, but also have the government fund an advanced ‘support the test, trace and isolate approach,’ and put into play a financial plan to help any businesses who becomes impacted by the extended lockdown.
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Dr. Irfan Dhalla, vice-president of Unity Health Toronto, said the #COVIDZero strategy has already been proven successful in Southeast Asian countries, New Zealand and Australia.
“Even here in Canada, some provinces in Atlantic Canada have controlled COVID-19 quite effectively and all of these countries have explicitly or implicitly have a target of essentially zero COVID.”
Dhalla believes that the economy will be able to thrive more once the number of cases whittle down to zero and the lockdown is lifted.
“If we look at those countries in Asia, Australia and New Zealand… their economies are recovering much faster than our economy is recovering, so we’re seeing in some of those countries, economists are beginning to say ‘yes, #COVIDZero is the way forward,'” said Dhalla.
However, some economists in Canada argue that going to the other end of the spectrum in implementing one large-scale lockdown until we eradicate COVID-19 from Ontario would destroy the economy.
“The bankruptcies that will emerge because of it, it’s something the economy may never bounce back from,” said Eric Kam, a professor of economics at Ryerson University.
“The government can say we’re going to provide CERB (Canada Emergency Response Benefit) to get us over the hump, but CERB is just a fraction of some of these people earn, so its not sufficient,” he added.
Kam says that there is also no way of knowing when the more stringent #COVIDZero measures would be lifted, which would add even more stress for businesses.