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Officials taking more liberties in wake of COVID-19 scare

The national plan on slowing the spread of the novel coronavirus involves all of us keeping our distance. It’s a strategy that works best when everyone goes along with the prescribed rules and guidelines, though not all of us have bought in.

That’s precisely why political leaders have become more strident and why what was once advice is now being enforced by law. It’s the reason Canada and many other countries are strangling their economies in hopes of both saving lives and preventing their medical systems from being overwhelmed, a situation that both applies to saving lives and taking economic precautions.

As of this week, the province ordered the shutting of all non-essential businesses. Officials from the local councils up to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau are considering tougher regulations to prevent people from congregating in numbers, as some continue to do despite all the warnings. The response could include draconian measures that would seriously curtail civil liberties, and freedoms once lost are incredibly hard to regain, as we’ve seen in this surveillance age as governments fail to protect the rights and privacy of their citizens.

We want to avoid such drastic steps – leaving the important conversation about revoking the option of such powers for another day in the post-crisis future – and the best way to do that is for everyone to help with the now ubiquitous flatten-the-curve efforts.

A new poll released Tuesday shows we’re not all on board. About 20 per cent of Canadians indicated they weren’t taking the COVID-19 pandemic seriously when surveyed by Leger just last weekend.

The pollster found 16 per cent of respondents said the crisis was partly blown out of proportion and another four per cent believed it was blown way out of proportion.

If that large a percentage of the public is failing to heed the guidelines, that could jeopardize the all-important flattening.

Of course, the poll numbers do reflect concerns that the measures invoked to combat COVID-19 may end up doing more harm than the virus itself: the cure is worse than the disease, some muse.

That may be so, but it’s a gamble science says we have to take. For now, we should all be doing our part, though we can be sure opposition will mount the longer the closures, self-isolating and social distancing go on. We’ve never seen the likes of this kind of economic downturn, so have no way of knowing for sure what the situation will look like in a week, a month or quarter.

We’re already feeling the effects of the fight against COVID-19, as the Leger poll also reveals.

Forty-one per cent of respondents said they were somewhat afraid of personally contracting the virus; another 16 per cent said they were very afraid.

Forty-four per cent said they were somewhat afraid someone in their immediate family will contract the disease; another 26 per cent were very afraid.

Only four per cent said they personally know someone who’s been diagnosed with the disease.

Fifty-six per cent said the crisis was already having an impact on their work, 54 per cent said they were stocking up on food and supplies at home and 47 per cent said it’s had an impact on their ability to visit loved ones in hospital or long-term care homes.

As well, 48 per cent said the crisis had impacted their retirement savings or other investments, 38 per cent said it’s affected their income, 35 per cent their capacity to financially assist other family members, 27 per cent their ability to pay bills and 21 per cent their ability to meet mortgage payments or pay rent.

Sixteen per cent said they’d lost their job.

We know there’s a crisis. Now we have to act like it.


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