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COVID-19

“I’m not scared of Covid-19.” The viral post from a Canadian Infectious Disease Specialist

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Infection Disease Expert

Facebook Post from Dr. Abdu Sharkawy has been shared over 1.3 million times!

I’m a doctor and an Infectious Diseases Specialist. I’ve been at this for more than 20 years seeing sick patients on a daily basis. I have worked in inner city hospitals and in the poorest slums of Africa. HIV-AIDS, Hepatitis, TB, SARS, Measles, Shingles, Whooping cough, Diphtheria…there is little I haven’t been exposed to in my profession. And with notable exception of SARS, very little has left me feeling vulnerable, overwhelmed or downright scared.

I am not scared of Covid-19. I am concerned about the implications of a novel infectious agent that has spread the world over and continues to find new footholds in different soil. I am rightly concerned for the welfare of those who are elderly, in frail health or disenfranchised who stand to suffer mostly, and disproportionately, at the hands of this new scourge. But I am not scared of Covid-19.

What I am scared about is the loss of reason and wave of fear that has induced the masses of society into a spellbinding spiral of panic, stockpiling obscene quantities of anything that could fill a bomb shelter adequately in a post-apocalyptic world. I am scared of the N95 masks that are stolen from hospitals and urgent care clinics where they are actually needed for front line healthcare providers and instead are being donned in airports, malls, and coffee lounges, perpetuating even more fear and suspicion of others. I am scared that our hospitals will be overwhelmed with anyone who thinks they ” probably don’t have it but may as well get checked out no matter what because you just never know…” and those with heart failure, emphysema, pneumonia and strokes will pay the price for overfilled ER waiting rooms with only so many doctors and nurses to assess.

I am scared that travel restrictions will become so far reaching that weddings will be canceled, graduations missed and family reunions will not materialize. And well, even that big party called the Olympic Games…that could be kyboshed too. Can you even
imagine?

I’m scared those same epidemic fears will limit trade, harm partnerships in multiple sectors, business and otherwise and ultimately culminate in a global recession.

But mostly, I’m scared about what message we are telling our kids when faced with a threat. Instead of reason, rationality, openmindedness and altruism, we are telling them to panic, be fearful, suspicious, reactionary and self-interested.

Covid-19 is nowhere near over. It will be coming to a city, a hospital, a friend, even a family member near you at some point. Expect it. Stop waiting to be surprised further. The fact is the virus itself will not likely do much harm when it arrives. But our own behaviors and “fight for yourself above all else” attitude could prove disastrous.

Pandemic: We need to be smarter than China (and Italy)

I implore you all. Temper fear with reason, panic with patience and uncertainty with education. We have an opportunity to learn a great deal about health hygiene and limiting the spread of innumerable transmissible diseases in our society. Let’s meet this challenge together in the best spirit of compassion for others, patience, and above all, an unfailing effort to seek truth, facts and knowledge as opposed to conjecture, speculation and catastrophizing.

Facts not fear. Clean hands. Open hearts.
Our children will thank us for it.

#washurhands #geturflushot #respect #patiencenotpanic

 

 

After 15 years as a TV reporter with Global and CBC and as news director of RDTV in Red Deer, Duane set out on his own 2008 as a visual storyteller. During this period, he became fascinated with a burgeoning online world and how it could better serve local communities. This fascination led to Todayville, launched in 2016.

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COVID-19

Preston Manning stepping away from National Citizen’s Inquiry to focus on the Alberta Public Health review

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From the National Citizen’s Inquiry

The National Citizen’s Inquiry (NCI) – a citizen-led inquiry into Canada’s response to COVID-19 – is finalizing plans to hold hearings across the country. With two of five commissioners now in place, the inquiry has booked its first two events – in Atlantic Canada and Central Canada.

Across the country, we are seeing more and more clear signals that Canadians are not only ready to ask the hard questions about how our governments reacted to this pandemic, but also require the answers.

Nation-wide concern

Another Liberal minister has said the quiet part out loud. Former Finance Minister Bill Morneau joined his one-time colleagues Joel Lightbound, Nathaniel Erskine-Smith, Marcus Powlowski, John McKay and Yves Robillard in expressing dismay that the Trudeau Liberals used vaccine mandates as a political wedge issue, an approach that “stigmatizes and divides people” as Lightbound put it.

In fact, after two years of vaccine distribution, the state broadcaster this week also published one of its first articles chronicling widespread vaccine injuries. The article acknowledged that those suffering from adverse effects also deal with “silence” and “stigma” as a result of the overly politicized tone set by Ottawa.

In Ontario, 164 former health care workers rallied to let the public know that, while the provincial health care system buckles under immense pressure and nurses are shipped in from other parts of Canada, there are hundreds of workers that were terminated because of vaccination mandates – and to the surprise of most – they are still not permitted to resume their careers.

In Alberta, Premier Danielle Smith has commissioned a Public Health Emergencies Governance Review Panel which will “review the legislation that guided Alberta’s response to COVID-19 and recommend changes to improve the handling of future public health emergencies for Albertans.”

NCI Spokesperson

On that note, Preston Manning will be stepping away from his role as spokesperson for the NCI to chair the Alberta review. The NCI welcomes this positive initiative by Premier Smith and believes the people of Alberta will be well-served by the appointment of Mr. Manning as Chair. Taking over for Manning is acclaimed investigative journalist Trish Wood. Wood worked for 10 years on CBC’s Emmy Award-winning Fifth Estate before exposing the heartbreaking stories of Iraq War veterans in What Was Asked of Us and later pioneering the modern renaissance of true-crime storytelling. This experience has allowed her to hone the kind of unapologetic critical thinking and investigative skills that she will bring to bear in this role.

Hearing Details

Plans for the Inquiry’s in-person hearings – supplemented by virtual participation – are now being finalized. The first hearings will be in Atlantic Canada e.g. Truro/Nova Scotia, March 16,17,18 and Montreal/Quebec, 22, 23, and 24 of March.

Additionally, the Inquiry has appointed its first two commissioners. They are Bernard Massie and Ken Drysdale.

Invitations will soon be sent to government officials at all levels across the country. These individuals will be invited to provide their perspectives and reflect on the decisions that were made.

Invitations are also extended to experts in the areas of economics; health care; mental and physical wellbeing; constitutional expertise; learning; and any other area significantly affected by pandemic response at any level. The Inquiry is also welcoming non-experts with personal stories that will help illuminate any unarticulated and overlooked shortcomings in the government responses. As demonstrated in the article reference above, there are many Canadians who feel silenced and stigmatized. 

Take the example of Christian and Margarita

Immigrants from Mexico, they chose to start a life and a family here in Canada. Christian holds a PhD and was a lecturer at a prominent Canadian university. His wife was a program manager for a regional health authority.

After soberly considering their risk profile against the available data, as well as suspecting that the mRNA vaccination was incompatible with aspects of their faith, they chose to wait.

And in their situation, we see the unfortunate cascading effects of these poorly considered policies, developed in bureaucratic silos.

Christian and his wife – who worked from home, incidentally – were both put on indefinite administrative leave by their employers. Both streams of household income effectively removed.

And because of the Federal government’s policies, they were also deemed ineligible for any employment insurance.

Being immigrants, they also did not have family around them. In fact, their main community connections were from a church they attended. Unfortunately, they were also no longer allowed to attend worship services because of the imposition of the vaccine passport program by the provincial government.

At the time this happened, Christian and Margarita were also living on an island. Federal travel mandates left them effectively stranded.

In the span of a month, these highly skilled individuals – who had made Canada their new home – lost all income; were disqualified from any social assistance; lost their primary community support system; and could not even get on a plane to leave.

Now Christian and Margarita are in the process of returning to Mexico, where they have more confidence that the government will leave them in peace.

It is stories like this that will not be heard at an internal meeting between government officials and senior bureaucrats. It is stories like this that demand a citizen’s inquiry.

About the National Citizen’s Inquiry

NCI is a citizen-led and citizen-funded initiative that is completely independent from government. In early 2023, the NCI will hear from Canadians and experts and investigate governments’ COVID-19 policies in a fair and impartial manner. The NCI’s purpose is to listen, to learn, and to recommend. What went right? What went wrong? How can Canadians and our governments better react to national crises in the future in a manner that balances the interests of all members of our society?

 

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COVID-19

WHO decides the COVID-19 global emergency isn’t over

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The World Health Organization decided Monday not to declare an end to the COVID-19 global public health emergency.

Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the director-general of the international body, said Monday “there is no doubt that we’re in a far better situation now” than a year ago, when the highly transmissible Omicron variant was at its peak.

But Tedros warned that in the last eight weeks, at least 170,000 people have died around the world in connection with the SARS-CoV-2 virus. He called for at-risk groups to be fully vaccinated, an increase in testing and early use of antivirals, an expansion of lab networks, and a fight against “misinformation” about the pandemic.

“We remain hopeful that in the coming year, the world will transition to a new phase in which we reduce hospitalizations and deaths to the lowest possible level,” he said.

What would it mean if the WHO had decided to lift that designation?

By declaring a global emergency, the WHO essentially sounded the alarm on a serious worldwide health risk that required international co-operation.

It triggered a legally binding response among WHO member countries, including Canada, and allowed the organization to make temporary recommendations to those countries to prevent or deal with the threat.

Over the last few years those recommendations have included quarantining infected people and their close contacts and border testing and closures.

The formal designation was made on Jan. 30, 2020, when 99 per cent of confirmed COVID-19 cases were still restricted to China.

Even if that designation is lifted, it doesn’t mean the pandemic is over or that the threat has ended.

Why was the WHO considering it now?

Monday marks three years to the day since Tedros first declared the then little-understood coronavirus a global health emergency.

Since then, a committee of global experts has met every three months to offer advice on whether the pandemic still meets that definition.

“As we enter the fourth year of the pandemic, we are certainly in a much better position now than we were a year ago when the Omicron wave was at its peak and more than 70 thousand deaths were being reported to WHO each week,” Tedros told the committee Friday.

At the previous meeting in October, he said weekly reported COVID-19 deaths had nearly reached their lowest levels since the beginning of the pandemic.

On Friday though, Tedros appeared to caution the committee against being too optimistic.

He said the number of weekly deaths had been rising since early December, particularly since public health restrictions were lifted in China.

“In total, over the past eight weeks, more than 170,000 deaths have been reported. The actual number is certainly much higher,” he said.

He also reminded the experts the pandemic response remains “hobbled” in countries without COVID-19 vaccines and therapeutics.

Even in countries with such tools at their disposal, public trust in those life-saving medicines has been undermined by disinformation campaigns, health systems remain overwhelmed because of staff shortages, and COVID-19 surveillance efforts have been massively scaled down.

What will Canada do differently once the WHO declares the emergency over?

Nothing much. At a press conference Friday, Canada’s chief public health officer Dr. Theresa Tam said no matter what the WHO decided, Canada would continue to track cases, serious illnesses and deaths, as well as roll out vaccination campaigns.

Cases, hospitalizations and deaths associated with the virus spiked noticeably over Christmas and in early January, Tam said, but all now appear to be trending down.

“We mustn’t, I think, let go of the gains that we’ve had in the last several years,” she said.

“I think whatever the decision is made by the director-general of WHO, I think we just need to keep going with what we’re doing now.”

Whose decision was it not to end the emergency?

The final call was ultimately up to Tedros, but he was informed by the advice of the emergency committee.

The group, first struck in 2020 when the threat of COVID-19 first came to light, voted Friday on whether or not to maintain the formal emergency designation.

When will the pandemic finally be over?

It’s still difficult to say because COVID-19 is still spreading rampantly around the world.

The WHO declared COVID-19 a pandemic a month and a half after designating it a global emergency, and at the time Tedros took pains to explain the two classifications are not one and the same.

“Describing the situation as a pandemic does not change WHO’s assessment of the threat posed by this virus. It doesn’t change what WHO is doing, and it doesn’t change what countries should do,” Tedros said on March 11, 2020.

Last fall he declared the end of the pandemic was “in sight,” but it is difficult to say when it will fully come into view.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 30, 2023.

— With files from The Associated Press.

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