Canadian Bruce Aylward is leading the World Health Organization team charged with stemming the spread of the virus. He warns us that this is not the common flu and is 10 times more deadly than that.
By Sheila Copps
First published in The Hill Times on March 16, 2020.
OTTAWA—Call me contrarian. But I refuse to join the wave of panic reacting to the spread of the coronavirus COVID-19.
Two women in Australia were arrested for fighting over the purchase of toilet paper.
People are crossing the street when they see anyone who looks a little different from them.
The price of hand sanitizers and hygiene wipes has skyrocketed as merchants exploit the law of supply and demand.
Members of Parliament go into voluntary lockdown. Planes are no longer flying to China, Korea, Italy, or Iran.
The Canadian government is introducing a stimulus package to help the country weather the storm, with targeted support for affected industries and workers.
Canadian Bruce Aylward is leading the World Health Organization team charged with stemming the spread of the virus.
He warns us that this is not the common flu and is 10 times more deadly than that.
But he also says that there are ways we can reduce the spread of the disease, the single most important being scrupulous handwashing. If no one with the virus sneezes on me, I am not going to be affected.
And even if I am, the chances of getting through it are good because I am a healthy sexagenarian.
I am a great believer that when my time is up, my time is up. I could get hit by a bus crossing the street in Ottawa. I cannot and will not stop living for fear of dying.
We could shut down the whole world and people still need to interconnect for work and sustenance.
The whole of Italy is now in lockdown and they are warning the worst is yet to come in other parts of Europe. But the world goes on and putting everyone into quarantine is simply not possible.
Not everyone grows their own food so a trip to the grocery store is inevitable.
Likewise, the decision to cancel sporting and entertainment events seems to be a huge overreaction.
I guess everyone is following the mantra, better safe than sorry.
If you don’t have to get out of your house, it is easier to stay there.
But what if you have already made the move?
I am currently half-way around the world, getting ready to embark on a 25th anniversary cruise of the South Pacific.
The cruise was booked more than two years ago, when nobody thought the coronavirus would be playing a role in people’s travel plans.
Canada’s chief public health officer Theresa Tam has issued a warning that people should cancel planned cruises, because of the risk of coronavirus contamination.
So why would I even consider ignoring her blunt warning?
Thus far, only two cruise ships have been reported to be affected. From the moment they were identified, the cruise industry heightened its boarding procedures. The temperature of every person is taken before they board the ship, and if there are any doubts, the passenger cannot board.
Staff from affected countries are not currently working the ships, and the companies have also cancelled the reservations of prospective passengers from certain targeted countries.
The cruise ship industry seems to have gotten its act together.
It is obviously financially motivated to do so because worldwide, the business is worth $126-billion. The cruise industry can’t afford to simply shut everything down.
Media have identified cruise ships as a Petri dish for disease. But ships are also a Petri dish for disease containment.
If a single new virus has not been found on a cruise ship in two weeks, does that not mean that the methods being employed to contain disease are working?
I must admit, I am thinking with my heart, not my head. Twenty-five years of marriage is a milestone and this voyage is symbolic of that celebration.
I am perusing the news vigorously to watch for reports of any new cruise contaminations.
Luckily for me, I have a first world cruise ship problem. Some dying Covid-19 patients around the world do not even have access to proper health care.
Italian medical staff are reported to have to ration available respirators based on triage, as their hospitals do not have enough to support all patients that might need them.
More than 4,000 people have already died, and more will because of this new super-virus.
During the same period, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 14,000 people have died from the ordinary flu virus.
Perspective, not panic, should be the order of the day.
Sheila Copps is a former Jean Chrétien-era cabinet minister and a former deputy prime minister. Follow her on Twitter at @Sheila_Copps.