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Posted: January 17, 2021

Wear the mask or pay the price

“Perceptions,” by Gerry Warner

Op-Ed Commentary

When it comes to COVID-19 it’s pretty damn obvious what we did wrong. When I say “we,” I’m talking about all of us except for a few countries that dealt with the pandemic far better than Canada and most of the developed world, especially the Disunited States of America.

Our first response almost a year ago was denial. Oh, that’s something that only happens in those dirty Third World countries we said like the true racists we often are. We may not have said it out loud, but many of us were thinking that except for soon-to-be ex-President Donald Trump who bellowed out loud publicly at many of his rallies – “the Chinese virus.”

The dreaded virus may well have started in China or somewhere else in Asia – no one knows for sure – but one thing we do know for sure is that China knows how to deal with COVID-19 and the statistics bears this out.

Today in Wuhan, China, where the pandemic allegedly started, the city of over 11 million is almost Covid-free and its residents do not even have to wear masks. A recent article in The Lancet, arguably the most respected medical journal in the world, says China did what few countries in the West were willing to do – they imposed a 76-day lockdown on Wuhan as soon as the virus was identified. Public transport was halted, schools were closed and people were locked in their houses except for one designated resident to go out for food and emergencies.

“The speed of China’s response was the crucial factor,” explained Gregory Poland, director of the Vaccine Research Group at the Mayo Clinic. “They moved very quickly to stop transmission. Other countries, even though they had much longer to prepare for the arrival of the virus, delayed their response and that meant they lost control.”

In a nutshell, that’s it. Being one of the oldest civilizations on earth, China knows how to deal with pandemics, which have been striking our planet every 100 years or less and killing millions since the dawn of time. We in the West, in our supposed superiority, don’t fully understand this yet except for the rare exception of a few countries like Australia, New Zealand, Taiwan and a few others. I know this personally because I have a son who’s a physician in Australia and he’s explained it to me in detail.

Basically, the Aussies and Kiwis don’t mess around. Mask rules are rigid. If there’s an infection in a major city or state, everyone must wear a mask in public outside their own homes and at work. No exceptions. Contact tracking is rigorous unlike in weak-kneed Canada when an infection breaks out. State borders are closed and they stay closed until the infection is over. No Albertans pouring over the border like so many lemmings. Australia also closed its international borders as soon as the pandemic broke out and they remained closed to this day. No Bondi Beach for you buddy. And the quarantine rules are rigid also.

When my son transferred from Darwin in the Northern Territory to Hobart in Tasmania, he was quarantined for two weeks in his new home and couldn’t even leave his house other than for work. Inspectors stopped by, unannounced, three times during that period to make sure he was abiding by the rules.

The Aussies paid the price, but they’ve also reaped the reward. My son spent Christmas on the beach, camping and going to rugby games and cricket. And no one was wearing masks because there were no COVID-19 cases on the entire island of Tasmania at that time. If there had been, Tasmanians would have had to wear masks again.

So, it’s not rocket science. It’s just good public health practises with the backbone to back them up and the willingness of an enlightened population to follow them. Bubble zones are fine as far as they go, but they don’t go far enough. It’s a pity that so many of us don’t realize this or won’t acknowledge it like provincial premiers John Horgan, Jason Kenney and Doug Ford. Yes, they’re talking about it now.

Too late gentlemen. The horse is out of the barn.

– Gerry Warner is a retired journalist, who also on occasion forgets to wear his mask.

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