Bill Blair, the man that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has put in charge of border security, doesn’t think that the border is an issue when it comes to COVID-19. He’s said so in several tweets recently.
Sadly, this is the same position that he and the rest of the government held back in late February and early March, before the borders closed but when our COVID-19 situation had changed dramatically.
Canada’s first case of COVID-19 was reported on January 25. A Toronto area man who had recently returned from visiting Wuhan, China for the Lunar New Year felt unwell when he returned home.
Most of our earliest cases all had a link to China through travel, on February 20 that changed when a woman tested positive in British Columbia. Her travel connection had nothing to do with China, she had been to Iran.
This was a pivot point for the COVID response in Canada but the federal government missed it. There were no immediate actions to start screening for passengers arriving in Canada from Iran.
Our total screening for incoming air travel passengers was to as if they had been to China’s Hubei province, the home of Wuhan, in the last two weeks.
About 10 days later cases were showing up in Ontario from Iran. Over the weekend of February 29 through March 1 there were seven new cases reported in the Toronto area, six of them had a travel connection to Iran.
On March 2 federal officials issued new guidance, not orders but guidance, for people arriving in Canada from Iran. Please contact your local public health office within 24 hours of landing and please self-isolate for 14 days.
There was no quarantine order for people arriving from Iran, just as there was no quarantine order for people arriving from Wuhan on commercial flights. People were asked to self-isolate and obviously, many didn’t get the message.
In the same week that the importation point for the SARS-Cov2 virus shifted for Canada, our prime minister continued to dismiss the idea that he needed to do anything different.
“There is a lot of misinformation out there, there is a lot of knee-jerk reaction that isn’t keeping people safe, that is having real challenging impacts on communities and on community safety,” Trudeau said on March 5.
That week, the percentage of COVID cases linked to travel in Toronto stood at 60.7%. By the end of the month, it had fallen dramatically, to just 11.5%, as COVID spread in the community.
It’s not as if these other new cases had nothing to do with travel but they were either listed as “close contact” or “community spread.” COVID didn’t magically start sprouting up in Toronto or the rest of Canada, it came in through the front door and started looking around.
People who came in from COVID hotspots, be it China, Iran, Egypt, Italy or the United States were told to go home, call when you get in and consider self-isolating for 14 days. The message on March 2 was please call and please self-isolate, it wasn’t until March 25 that an order to quarantine was issued.
By this point it was too late.
Now we have the new strain of COVID in Canada because just like last winter, the Trudeau Liberals did not take the border seriously. To them, any claim that we should stop flights, screen or take tougher measures smacks of racism.
That is what they were saying back in January, February and the early part of March and that is what they imply now.
It’s silly, childish politics being played with an incredibly deadly virus.
What would the outcome for Canada have been like if Trudeau and other political leaders had taken serious measures on the border instead of telling us to go to Chinese restaurants?
What if they had paid attention and acted swiftly as the virus hotspots shifted to Iran, Egypt, Italy and the United States?
Literally thousands of lives could have been saved.
Now faced with a new strain of COVID coming from the UK and already showing up across Canada, the Trudeau Liberals are simultaneously trying to say the border is not an issue while also stopping flights from Britain. Again, had they acted earlier.
Initial indications are not that this virus is more deadly but that it is “stickier,” that it spreads far easier than the variants we have been dealing with. As anyone who has followed this knows, more cases will eventually mean more hospitalizations, more ICU admissions, more deaths.
With three to four flights a day landing in Toronto from London before the flight ban, I’m not saying the Trudeau government could have stopped this virus coming in but they could have handled it better.
Instead, they want to do a limited flight ban, tell you the border isn’t an issue and hope they catch the next variant before it becomes a problem.
Call me a skeptic.