“Right living is ‘dharma’ – the bridge between resources, ‘earth’, and human needs, ‘karma’. Dharma is therefore based on the sustainable and just use of resources for fulfilling needs. Ecological balance and social justice are intrinsic to right livelihood, to dharma. ‘Dharanath dharma ucyat’ – that which sustains all species of life and helps maintain harmonious relationship among them is ‘dharma’. ( Vandana Shiva, from ‘Soil Not Oil’)
Special to The Wolseley Bulletin
Updated from Opinion Piece printed in Regina Leader Post on Nov. 20, 2020
Politics, Not Science Is Still Driving the Covid Catastrophe
By Jim Harding
Finally announcing a few restrictions, Health Minister, Paul Merriman, claimed he was taking a “measured approach”. Actually, he was taking “half measures”; requiring masks for only 65% left us all vulnerable.
Has the government been carefully “measuring” our rate of active cases surpassing Ontario and B.C.? Being halfway to Manitoba’s 13% positivity? Saskatoon’s ICUs already being stretched? All the warning signs of another killer spread in Long Term Care?
After mounting pressure, the Province saw some light, requiring masks in all indoor public places. But it stubbornly sticks to a piecemeal, not integrated approach.
When Merriman received the letter from 300 doctors, urging immediate action, he politely said he’d “follow public health advice.”Yet when Chief Medical Officer (CMO), Dr. Saqib Shahab speaks about continuing the reactive, piecemeal approach, he gives vague, politicized answers; pep talks.
We can’t keep hiding behind political opinion and jurisdiction. Vaccines will not be a magic bullet and it may take a year to see any overall positive effect.
A federally coordinated action plan is long overdue.
Learning from Shortcomings
Some say we should wait for this pandemic to end to evaluate our shortcomings. Nonsense!
In May, Richard Horton, Editor of the prestigious medical journal The Lancet, documented our collective failures. (The Covid-19 Catastrophe, Polity, 2020). He lists: 1) technical bias, 2) flawed process, 3) failed leadership, 4) poor preparation, 5) inadequate planning and implementation and 6) disinformation and miscommunication.
Some government advisors stubbornly believed the threat would be a new influenza, not a more contagious SARS. Decision-makers didn’t ask probing questions. Multi-disciplinary teams, to guide decisive action, were not quickly put in place. Countries, like Canada, were caught with a chronic lack of PPE and testing capacity. And Canada’s hospital capacity has steadily declined; we are even below the U.S.
There was only fleeting capacity to create integrated policies. Mixed messaging laid more ground for conspiracy “theories”. The mass media reported aggregate numbers without meaningful context.
It is not surprising that we remain without sufficient public health understanding or compliance.
And ignoring these shortcomings sets us up to repeat them.
Sticking to Failure
Saskatchewan has been falling into the same trap as Manitoba, and North Dakota, where proactive “public health” actions such as universal mask usage, were sidelined, supposedly to avoid economic impact and/or political backlash. This has been self-defeating; both face lockdowns.
Testing and tracking only work if other measures like mask usage and clear restrictions on social and economic contact help keep transmission down. Opening schools is fine, but this is only viable if community spread is under control.
Alberta Premier Kenney says he wants to minimize “impairment” to the economy. Yet his failure to implement effective, proactive public health measures has seen Alberta’s active cases rise above the much larger eastern provinces. Politically motivated to avoid lockdowns, rather than embracing integrated approaches that could prevent lockdowns, politicians continue to give mixed messaging.
They are not solely to blame. In July, the WHO issued an advisory that this virus was airborne. Why did it take until November to get reliable information about safe masks being three-layered?
Early false messaging flew in the face of best practices in several Asian countries. This was probably rationalized to crisis manage scarcity of PPE for hospitals.
We need to “do unto others” for the Golden Rule to work in public health. And remember that we don’t only wear masks to protect others; we wear them to protect ourselves.
Since June, Canada’s death rate has risen from 20 to 30 per 100,000. This is 8 times Australia, which has locked down quickly and firmly as needed to prevent higher levels of spread, sickness and death. South Korea, where universal mask use and effective testing has helped control surges and avert total lockdowns, is still under 1 (yes one). Doing testing across its 4 million people, which helps locate asymptomatic spreaders, Slovakia recently reduced its transmission rate by 80%.
Saskatchewan is now facing a surge because decision-makers have engaged in wishful thinking and “advisors” have been reading political lips. Premier Moe calling piecemeal measures a “slow down”, just adds confusion. Public health objectives can’t be accomplished by reacting to COVID statistics that somewhat reflect what was happening a few weeks ago. The latest restrictions, of pausing sports and reducing limits on additional venues, may prove to be too little too late.
If we truly want to protect both health and jobs, we have to get the rate of transmission and community spread way down, from where it already is, so that effective testing and tracing is possible. This requires an integrated not piecemeal approach. Otherwise we end up where we say we don’t want to go.
You can’t expect different results if you don’t embrace different approaches.
Informed health officials are again rightly saying “stay home, socialize only with your household’.
Better late than never will not protect healthcare and precarious workers, seniors, young adults at growing risk, or small businesses who remain pawns in the fools-game.
Dr. Harding is a retired professor of environmental and justice studies. He is a past director of research for Prairie Justice Research, University of Regina, and Saskatchewan Health’s Alcoholism Commission. He has published widely on social and environmental health and is a founding director of the Qu’Appelle Valley Environmental Association (QVEA.CA).
publisher link[ photo credit: BriarPatch Magazine ]
A little bit of history… this banner led the Oct. 4, 2009 “No Nukes Go Renewable” walk and rally in Saskatoon, was originally made for the International Uranium Congress which brought non-nukes from all over the world to Saskatoon June 16-21, 1988. Photo Credit: Stephanie Sydiaha.