Lessons learned from COVID-19

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Pontiac Perspective by Peter Gauthier

The COVID-19 pandemic has been with us for more than a year, and while it’s not over, some evaluation of how it was handled is possible. A recent report from the Auditor-General brings attention to some of the failings of the federal

Pontiac Perspective by Peter Gauthier

The COVID-19 pandemic has been with us for more than a year, and while it’s not over, some evaluation of how it was handled is possible. A recent report from the Auditor-General brings attention to some of the failings of the federal
government. In addition, there are numerous interim reports from different levels of government and international comparisons. There are also reviews and suggestions from past epidemics.
Of these, the SARS outbreak of 2003 is of special significance. Following this epidemic, the Public Health Agency was warned of potential shortcomings to remedy before future outbreaks. Yet, at the beginning of the current pandemic, Canada found itself short of essential supplies such as N95 respirators and related personal protective equipment frontline responders needed.
The Auditor-General’s recent findings are even more alarming: emergency and response plans were not up to date nor tested, data sharing with provinces and territories was not finalized and the modelling systems used were inappropriate for processing pandemic data. Further, the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHA) was unable to determine the effectiveness of quarantine measures.
But the PHA wasn’t the only culprit. The total inadequacy of both public and private elder care facilities is one of the greatest horrors that COVID-19 made obvious. Proper care for elders is primarily a provincial responsibility and the appropriate level of government must recognize the failures. Further
problems originated in coordination between federal and provincial governments. Each accused the other of some failure while Canadians suffered physical, mental, and monetary deterioration.
The various federal government attempts to ease financial losses cause by the pandemic epitomised financial confusion; the financial assistance programs brought relief to some, but chaos to many. Even the Canada Revenue Agency was uncertain about the rules. The WE scandal highlighted this issue. Preparing tax returns for the year 2020 will be a major task for many small businesses andindividuals.
The situation at the provincial level isn’t much better. The shortage of testing facilities and now, the distribution of vaccines has been plagued with problems. The province’s answer has been to blame the federal government, but our constitution clearly outlines provincial responsibilities for health care.
On the positive side, we must be grateful for the work of frontline workers who have performed miracles despite the shortcomings and antics of our federal and provincial governments. As vaccines become available, we can envision an end to the crisis. But we must remain diligent – variants are becoming common and need extra attention.
Hopefully our governments will learn from this COVID crisis and become better prepared for future crises. The cost in lives and resources serve as
a warning against a laissez-faire attitude that saves pennies while burdening the future with debts measured in billions. Canadians must demand appropriate plans and actions from all levels of government to ensure the next crisis will be overcome effectively and efficiently.