Right in the centre - Caring is the key


By Ken Waddell

Neepawa Banner & Press

Internationally known columnist, Gwynne Dyer said this week, “….Here’s a silver lining, if you want one: in every country, we have collectively decided, without even an argument, that we care more about the lives of our fellow citizens than we do about the damned economy.”

For most people, including most Canadians, Dyer has summarized the response to government action on the COVID-19 pandemic. I say most, as it is amazing how arrogant and unthinking a few people have been. When the health authorities, backed by the provincial and federal governments, tell travellers to stay at home and self-isolate, it means self-isolate. It doesn’t mean go to the store and buy a bunch of groceries, visit the kids and grandkids and  then settle into your condo for a couple of days to rest up. It means stay away from people as much as possible for 14 days.

Most people and businesses are taking extreme measures to reduce the amount of interaction with other people. If people are sick with any serious illness, they need to hide out for a while. If they “might” have had contact with the COVID-19 virus, then for sure, it’s time to self-isolate. As a side note, it’s interesting how every crisis adopts some new words. “Self-isolate” is a new one for me.

Everyone’s legitimate fear is that their area, their town, province or country will become the next China, Italy or Spain. Hence, another new word or phrase, “flattening the curve” has become the desired goal. Everyone is now familiar with the famous blue bell-curve that shows how any infection spreads if left unchecked. Now familiar is the flattened curve to the right of those famous graphics. What few people are saying is that the curves represent the same number of people and cases. It appears that, over time, there may not be a big difference in the total number of cases. Without a vaccine or a drug that will fight or treat COVID-19, a huge number of people will be infected by the virus. The numbers may well be the same under either curve. The difference is how many deaths. We know, that as of the date of this writing, Mar. 17, Italy is losing around 700 people a day. Obviously, nobody wants to go down that road.

By flattening the curve, or delaying the infection rate, deaths may be avoided. That is a good goal, one that should be commonly accepted.

The Canadian government, the provinces and the municipal governments are doing a good job. The daily updates, the explanation of the rules, the reasons for the rules are all very good. The aim is to get through this whole mess as safely as we can.

The future is scary. Governments are pouring billions of dollars into various efforts to save jobs, save businesses and the economy and that is appreciated.

The trick is to minimize close contact with each other. Stay apart, stop with hugging and kissing. Travellers stay home for 14 days, avoid large groups (50 is the maximum right now, but that could change). Wash your hands!

The stores have to stay open, people have to eat and get essential supplies and services. Basic commerce has to go on, or there will be no taxation to support health care, let alone anything else. Take precautions. It’s all about numbers and reducing close contact (for now, not forever).

All our collective efforts may not actually reduce the number of infections but it hopefully will reduce the suffering and deaths, if we can keep our health care system up and running. Those same efforts will help us all, as citizens, as a society and an economy get back to normal, so to speak.

Disclaimer: The writer serves as a volunteer chair of the Manitoba Community Newspaper Association. The views expressed in this column are the writer’s personal views and are not to be taken as being  the view of the MCNA board or Banner & Press staff.