What COVID-19 has taught us about long-term care
Building an equal future for women in Atlantic Canada
SaltWire Selects: Stories you don't want to miss
SPECIAL REPORT: Facets of family violence
Have you tried the SaltWire News app?
UPDATED: COVID-19 news and numbers
Continuing coverage: Mass shooting in Nova Scotia
What's working for businesses in 2021?
Some new accolades on the weekend for our region’s handling of the pandemic. This time from an extensive French study that surveyed nations’ responses to COVID-19 and concluded that taking an aggressive “zero COVID approach,” designed to eliminate the coronavirus, worked better than a “mitigation” approach, aimed at halting COVID-19’s spread.
The study leaned heavily upon the Canadian experience, where six provinces — Alberta, Manitoba. British Columbia, Ontario, Quebec, and Saskatchewan — went the mitigation route, while the four Atlantic Provinces, plus the northern territories, followed an elimination strategy.
The results were clear: “The countries (and Canadian provinces) that minimized the spread of the virus by means of a Zero COVID strategy are coming out of it the best,” concluded the economic think tank The Institut économique Molinari. “They are seeing significantly fewer deaths, their economies are performing more strongly, and their people are not held back to the same degree by mobility restrictions, whether voluntary or mandatory.”
The social media response to this information was intriguing: nothing new here, said Atlantic Canadians and those familiar with the approach, which has kept us all safer than anywhere else in the country while at the same time experiencing a less severe economic impact than in other places.
It’s almost becoming old hat by now: the gushing stories in the New York Times, which called Nova Scotia, “a COVID-free world, and Bloomberg.com, which declared the Atlantic bubble “a pandemic Shangri-la.”
The kind words from the esteemed infectious disease journalist Helen Branswell, who called the Atlantic bubble “a marvel” and Paul Krugman, the Nobel laureate, who pointed out, by way of comparison, that while the pandemic has by-and-large failed to penetrate Atlantic Canada, South Dakota, which has about as many people as Nova Scotia, was in “the midst of a pandemic disaster.”
Many ordinary Canadians, though, seem unwilling to give us much credit. Consider Twitter user Altor ego, who, in a response to the French, wrote: “Step 1: transform your province into a low population island with limited access.”
By my calculation, roughly half of the 1.9-million people who call those provinces home, live within four hours of each other. To put it another way, you can get from Halifax to Charlottetown or Saint John faster than a Torontian can make it out to a lake in the Muskokas.
Or George Morgan, who calls his home Hanover, Manitoba, and opined, “Atlantic Canada can afford zero COVID bulls--- because they mooch off the richer provinces.”
Or, for that matter, Viccy Carver G, a software developer and snowboarder from Calgary, Alberta, who said “easier to have border control with islands.”
Patlobo, from parts unknown, added, “I bet their economy is in the dumpster and businesses closed down.”
“Lucky,” declared Ryan Grieve, a policy wonk from Alberta.
Can you blame us for getting a little testy?
Andy Bowers, who makes his home in Dartmouth, shot back: “Find someone who loves you as much as Ontario-based newspapers love ignoring or discounting how great Nova Scotia has been handling COVID.”
While Halifax journalist Matthew Halliday tweeted, memorably: “If the pandemic has revealed nothing else about Confederation, it’s that a lot of Canadians truly and deeply believe that Atlantic Canada is a sparsely settled archipelago of unfathomable isolation, and they’re not going to let something silly like a map change their mind.”
If the pandemic has revealed nothing else about confederation, it's that a lot of Canadians truly and deeply believe that Atlantic Canada is a sparsely settled archipelago of unfathomable isolation, and they're not going to let something silly like a map change their mind. https://t.co/qWrTZUyoNZ— Matthew Halliday (@MatthewHalliday) April 2, 2021
So, perhaps it is worth pointing out that, yes Newfoundland, is an island, but New Brunswick is connected in the north and west to Quebec, and, in the south, to the state of Maine. And that New Brunswick is connected to Nova Scotia — and Nova Scotia, by bridge, to Prince Edward Island. So, our success in keeping COVID at bay it is not just a simple matter of pulling up the drawbridge to keep the infected out.
Isolated? Well, when you do look on the map, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, and Prince Edward Island, are packed cheek-to-jowl together. By my calculation, roughly half of the 1.9-million people who call those provinces home, live within four hours of each other. To put it another way, you can get from Halifax to Charlottetown or Saint John faster than a Torontian can make it out to a lake in the Muskokas.
As for being so sparsely populated that the virus simply cannot be transmitted, 2.4-million people live in the region, which is almost precisely the population of Manitoba and Saskatchewan. Yet, look at the difference in how hard COVID has hit: as of April 3, there were 207 known, active cases in Atlantic Canada. Taken togethe,r Saskatchewan and Manitoba had 3,395 active cases.
To read the tweets from elsewhere in Canada, tumbleweeds blow through this empty wasteland. I note, however, that Prince Edward Island — with 25.1 people per square kilometre according to the last Canadian census — is the mostly densely populated province in the land, followed, in order, by Nova Scotia (17.4 per square kilometre), Ontario (14.8) and New Brunswick (10.5).
Population density, then, cannot completely explain our COVID success either.
What can explain it beyond geography and demographics, and yes, perhaps a little luck, are governments that, as an unbiased British Columbian tweeted Monday, “bit the bullet and went for zero,” that value science, that do not define personal freedom as a person’s freedom to shop.
It's ordinary Atlantic Canadians, too. As Kevin Lynch and Paul Deegan wrote in these pages Monday, “the success of the Atlantic bubble and measures to contain the pandemic demonstrated Atlantic Canada’s ability to stand out.”
Or better yet, maybe, to stand together, for the greater good.