We first mentioned Corona a week ago and the situation has since developed with blistering speed. Italy’s health care system is overwhelmed and their deaths outnumber China’s, the EU is the new epicentre, and Canada is experiencing the dreaded community transmission. As we enter this critical junction, many Canadians are digesting what has happened and what’s to come, trying to make sense of it all.
Countries are implementing ever increasing restrictions to slow the spread. There have been typical knee-jerk social reactions, visibly manifested by hoarding and panic buying. Most inexplicable of all is the mass purchasing of toilet paper. Months worth of this otherwise rudimentary materiel has packed grocery carts, along with the somewhat more sensible stockpiling of meat and sanitation products. Stores are now implementing quotas, ensuring enough inventory for everyone.
But overall, people in Canada have respected isolation protocols and bought into the extra measures. Provincial governments have risen as the unexpected heroes, delivering excellent and coherent daily updates. A stark contrast to leadership at the federal level, which has been slow, disjointed, and inconsistent. Any hint of continuity in messaging between the feds and provinces has been suspiciously absent. Whether the federal government is tied up with big picture issues like national relief and international trade, or the provinces have realized they cannot expect strong leadership from higher up, the provinces and their top medical personnel have done an exemplary job of making the necessary recommendations, handling the public in an extremely intelligent, coherent, and metered fashion. Career politicians would be well advised to study the performance of Alberta and BC’s top health officers, Dr. Deena Hinshaw and Dr. Bonnie Henry.
The big question going forward is the economy, on both national and global scales. Rumblings of a market correction existed long before the pandemic. Now, with the crash in oil prices and evaporating liquidity, we have the ingredients for mass economic stagnation, unemployment, and ballooning deficits. Monetary policy has not done much to assuage the drop in market value as investors everywhere struggle to understand what all this means and where rock bottom really is. In the absence of demand, stimulus can only do so much. Emergency fiscal policy has aimed to help people, and businesses, bridge the gap. If this pandemic does not flatten in the next three months, the government will very likely have to start weighing the benefit of returning society to a normal routine, at the cost of more deaths and exposure to the virus. There have been glimmers of hope– some already existing viral treatments show promise, community spread has stopped in China, and industry is switching to mass production of hospital products. But a vaccine is said to be at least a year away and governments cannot single handedly support their entire population for that long.
CanadNow will be publishing regular articles about the current state of this pandemic, how people are adjusting, and how this very uncertain future unfolds.