Don Martin: The second lockdown cometh, but Canadians may resist house arrest
OTTAWA -- Here we go again as a lockdown and tight restrictions aimed at fighting COVID-19 roll out across a besieged country.
Ontario is set to fire the lockdown gun in and around Toronto on Friday.
That plus a “hard stop” to social events in Alberta, tough stay-at-home orders in Manitoba, new restrictions on Saskatchewan households, a planned extension to the Christmas school break in Quebec and further restrictions to be announced by B.C. on Thursday means all of Canada’s population outside of Atlantic Canada is heading back in time to March madness.
But beyond the question of whether it will work any better the second time around is another concern: Will Canadians accept a long, cold winter under house arrest?
This go-round feels different than last spring when near-total compliance emptied highways, closed offices, terminated school years and silenced playgrounds.
Then there was an overarching sense every individual effort would aid the national cause or, conversely, that risky behavior by the one was a risk to the many and should not be tolerated.
But there’s a fury in the land which believes governments and public health officials dropped the prevention ball between the first and second wave. And rebellion against a do-over is taking root.
After all, provincial governments (except for Alberta) still aren’t telling us how the coronavirus is spreading and why it’s returning with such a vengeance.
They post the daily coronavirus death toll, but don’t reveal if the cause was linked to other health conditions or old age.
We are given the “positivity rates” from testing in the lab, but insufficient resources for contact tracing to identify and isolate those who might be infected beyond every positive result.
Rapid testing is proving painfully slow to roll out and Health Canada isn’t even studying home tests yet.
And it doesn’t help when the messaging gets laughably ridiculous, to wit Ontario’s chief medical officer of health talking about a green Christmas; green as in Ontario being at the lowest pandemic zone, not one lacking snow cover.
That took about 10 minutes for the medical community to dismiss that as a hope so faint, it almost rivals Donald Trump’s disinfectant injection cure for the virus.
It’s all become a national disjointed game of COVID-19 catch-up and confusion with premiers trying to be seen doing something, even if it might not do much to actually fight a spread largely driven by their failure to calm the second wave earlier.
Exhibit A: B.C. Premier John Horgan called for a national non-essential travel ban on Wednesday without releasing any evidence the virus is being imported from out-of-province visitors.
Then there’s our pandemic leader, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who acts like the war against COVID is his own secret mission.
Under bombardment in Question Period on Wednesday, his responses could be distilled into three paragraphs.
Vaccine doses? A LOT (actually the most of any country on Earth on a per capita basis).
Vaccine approvals? Coming!
Vaccine distribution? Planned!!
The lack of detail is not likely to give weary Canadians the encouragement they need to get through what’s coming.
So, here we go again with outlawed social gatherings, banned sporting events and restaurants being closed even if they’ve taken all the right precautions.
All that will do is unleash underground social events in, let’s just pick something weird out of thin air, places like a storage facility. (OK, this actually happened when 100 were busted partying in one last weekend just outside Toronto.)
And don’t forget about Christmas, a holiday Trudeau suggested could be saved if we all sacrificed enough family time at Thanksgiving.
Sorry, he’ll soon say, but that’s not going to happen. Well, humbug.
Securing public buy-in for the tough challenge ahead requires a three-step rehabilitation from all levels of government.
They must produce clear evidence to back hard-hitting COVID mitigation moves. They must get rapid testing in stores or, preferably, homes. And they should give Canadians a roadmap to the promised land of mass vaccination.
Only then will public trust in government to deliver effective pandemic-killing medicine get a shot in the arm.
That's the bottom line.