Let’s Open the Economy

Commentary, Economy, Brian Giesbrecht

Manitoba is temporarily in an enviable position COVID-wise. Both compared to our southern neighbors and even to most of our fellow provinces. But, this is mainly because few people travel to Manitoba in winter. Travelers from western provinces are now allowed to enter Manitoba without self-isolating for fourteen days, but travelers from the east are still required to self-isolate – and our border with the United States remains closed. Premier Brian Pallister, who now wants to open our borders to travelers from the east while continuing easing restrictions, is meeting resistance from those who want to continue aggressively suppressing the virus despite growing costs.

Who is right?

First, remember what our original virus suppression strategy was. It was to “flatten the curve” – suppress the virus in order to prevent our medical system from being overwhelmed by a surge of cases. Though, we know that at some point the virus is going to run through our population – like every respiratory virus has done since the dawn of time. Presently while many countries are into their second wave Manitoba has yet to truly enter its first.

In most other parts of the globe this nasty virus continues to take its toll. In places like New York, Ontario and Quebec – places that did a poor first job of protecting their nursing home populations – there have been excessive deaths. But in states like Texas and Florida, that protected their elderly population, the surge in infections is now mainly infecting younger people, They, having been cooped up under COVID restrictions, are out defiantly partying. They are making it clear that they plan to get on with their lives, leaving their elders to do the social distancing.

Fortunately, the vast majority of those young rebels will recover from the virus – many won’t even know they had it. And, better drug and hospital treatment has dramatically lowered the death rate for all age groups. And, as long as the vulnerable are protected, we can to learn to live with a virus that just might be around for years.

Make no mistake, this is an awful virus. Even with a lowered death rate it remains lethal for both the elderly with serious health complications and younger people whose health is compromised by conditions such as diabetes and obesity. However, for the healthy, the media’s dire warnings have been overdone.

There will be time to debate the wisdom of the extreme lockdown model Canada adopted, and the long term harm it has done – financially and otherwise. We can compare ourselves to countries that did not lock down, either through choice, or too poor to send healthy people home with relief cheques. Most of the world’s nations are in that category, doing no better or worse than us. Countries that didn’t close their schools, or closed but reopened them quickly, also appear to be suffering no worse effects. Later, we can compare our extreme government-regulated social distancing rules with countries that allowed citizens to make their own health decisions.

But for now, I suggest that our elected representatives proceed promptly with their plans to phase out restrictions. Most of the damage has already been done through the initial total shutdown. What we need to do now is get the schools running and allowing still partially closed businesses to get back on their feet.

Republished from The Winnipeg Sun.

Brian Giesbrecht, a retired judge, is a senior fellow at the Frontier Centre for Public Policy.