EDITORIAL: Heeding the lessons of COVID-19

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s grandiose plans for rebuilding our economy in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic seem to be rooted in his belief this unprecedented disaster will ultimately make Canada better.

This is magical thinking.

Disasters don’t make things better.

They make things worse.

Far better to have averted the disaster by heeding the warnings of previous disasters.

The most important thing to do in the wake of a disaster is to learn from it.

The first thing to learn is that if uncontrolled government spending based on runaway public debt in a bid to spend ourselves rich actually worked, someone would have done it by now.

The responsibility of the federal government is not to bankrupt us in an effort to create an imaginary socialist utopia, but to do the things we should have done — and that we knew we should have done — after the 2002-2003 SARS pandemic and the 2009 H1N1 epidemic.

That would not have averted COVID-19 in Canada, but the number of infections, deaths and the amount of economic devastation it has caused would have been drastically reduced.

This had our governments acted on repeated warnings from their own experts, emerging from previous viral outbreaks.

For example, by creating and maintaining adequate supplies of personal protection equipment.

By developing efficient, resilient systems for data-sharing among federal, provincial and municipal governments.

By using up-to-date technologies for contact tracing and to create the capacity for mass testing at the start of a pandemic, instead of scrambling to do so six months into the outbreak.

By establishing effective protocols for monitoring and quarantining air passengers from abroad at the start of a pandemic.

Both Taiwan and Canada were hard hit by the 2002-2003 SARS epidemic.

Taiwan learned from its experience. Canada did not.

As of Saturday Taiwan, located 130 km off the coast of mainland China — the original epicentre of the outbreak — with 2.71 million visitors from China annually, had 21 cases of COVID-19 per million of population, 0.3 deaths per million and never had to lock the country down.

Canada, by contrast, had 3,775 cases per million, 244 deaths per million and, after months of economy-killing lockdowns, is bracing for its second wave.

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