Politicians vs pressure groups on the economy and public health 

di Priscilla Pajdo del December 22, 2020

TORONTO - Covid-19 cases are increasing at an alarming rate. Government leaders and Public Health officials face a difficult balancing act. One way to mitigate the spread of Covid- 19 and protect the health of the community is through rotating lockdowns. However, this has added greater pressures on the social and economic aspects of our society.

Throughout the province, as the number of cases trend upwards, so do hospitalizations. This has prompted the President and CEO of Ontario Health, Matt Anderson, to call on hospitals to prepare their surge capacity plans.

For instance, in Peel Region, Mississauga Mayor Bonnie Crombie said, “the situation at our hospitals remains dire”. Local hospital partners are cancelling elective surgeries and transferring patients to neighbouring regions. Several Ontario hospitals face this scenario as they make room for an anticipated surge in Covid-19 patients.

In a statement released on December 18, Mayor Crombie expressed support for the decision by Premier Ford to keep Peel Region in lockdown until at least January 4. For everyone, community spread is a real concern as people travel to other regions to shop, to dine and to visit with family.

Mayor Crombie supports a GTHA-wide lockdown. She believes the lockdown will help mitigate the spread of infection and reduce the number of Covid-19 hospitalizations.

The delay in extending these measures has prompted outrage from NDP Leader Andrea Horwath. She argues that “the longer Doug Ford dithers and delays, the more out of control the pandemic gets”. As Ontario reports over 2,000 new infections for the seventh day in a row, the increase in cases is putting unsustainable strain on the health care system.

This is troubling news for the Ontario Hospital Association (OHA). They have called on the Government to implement a fourweek lockdown in public health units with an infection rate of 40 per 100,000 population – before the ratio goes much higher. This includes most of southern Ontario.

Other advocates for expanded lockdown measures worry that valuable time has been wasted as contagion spreads and holiday shopping continues. Over the weekend, the Government met with hospital leaders and the OHA to discuss the seriousness of the situation and the necessary next steps.

Those measures were officially announced yesterday, Monday, when the rest of the Province learned what additional measures would be taken to curb the spread of the virus.

The expansion of the lockdown measures combined with additional restrictions come into effect at 12:01am on December 26. This is a tough pill to swallow for some, especially for those deemed to be in “non-essential” services.

The new province wide lockdown, could mean a great number will no longer have a business to re-open in the new year. “Far too many businesses have slipped through the cracks of both federal and provincial support programs”, said Dan Kelly, President and CEO of the Canadian Federation of Independent Business.

No one has found the formula that balances public health and economic sustainability. Officials need to target the root causes of infections to avoid an endless cycle of costly lockdowns.

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