Four provinces are easing lockdowns and beginning to re-open while we are way behind on vaccines. Below are my thoughts on the two of them and why I believe it is a bad idea to loosen lockdowns and why federal government is failing us on vaccines.
Alberta, Manitoba, Ontario, and Quebec thanks to strict rules have all seen a big drop in daily cases since December. This shows that despite what some on right claim, lockdowns do in fact work. But unfortunately all this hard work and sacrifice may go to waste with decision to re-open. If the new variant had not reached our shores, there might be some logic in gradually easing restrictions. But with new variant which is far more transmissible, I believe that re-opening is a very bad idea that will lead to more a hospitalizations and deaths and provinces need to reconsider. Ireland should be a cautionary tale as in early December there were only 200 cases a day, but spiked to 8,000 a day after new UK variant arrived by early January, but thanks to strong lockdowns back down to under 1,000. When you consider Ireland has fewer than 5 million people, this would be like 2,000 a day for Manitoba and Saskatchewan, 7,000-8,000 a day for BC and Alberta, 12,000 a day for Quebec and around 20,000 a day for Ontario. This would easily overwhelm our hospitals. I believe it is better to be safe than sorry so while a lot on right may want to re-open, a responsible government regardless of what base thinks needs to do what is right and stay in full lockdown until cases get close to zero. Cases need to be down to teens or single digits before re-opening and when re-opening, there must be aggressive contact tracing. With low rates that is possible but at current levels is not.
I have heard many of the excuses by anti-lockdown types and as shown below I will explain why they are wrong. No one likes lockdowns, but losing a loved one is far worse. Sometimes for greater good of society, we have to make sacrifices and this is the time for people to put interest of country ahead of their own. Below are some reasons people say we should re-open and why I think they are wrong:
- Lockdowns causing increase in suicides and harmful to mental health: Evidence shows suicides have not gone up despite predictions. Yes lockdowns can be damaging to mental health, but there are ways to fix that without re-opening. Meeting with family and friends virtually via zoom helps deal with the social aspect and for those living alone, moving in with another household as part of bubble should be allowed provided they stay in that one bubble and no contact with others.
- Lockdowns destroying businesses: I truly feel for small businesses and believe it is incumbent on government to provide the supports while we get through this. On the plus side; personal savings are at record highs so we will likely see a surge in consumer spending once this ends.
- Lockdowns don’t work: This is ideological nonsense as evidence is in fact crystal clear that lockdowns do work. BC which has not gone into lockdown had rates less than half of what Alberta was around Christmas, now we are higher. Saskatchewan also who didn’t go into lockdown now has highest per capita rates in country. In Europe, Sweden has significantly higher death rate and case rate than its neighbours. In US, South Dakota has one of the worst death rates and case rates despite being fairly rural. Florida while not as bad as some states with lockdowns is still way worse than anywhere in Canada. So while correlation may be imperfect, saying lockdowns don’t work goes against evidence. Australia by contrast had a harsh four month lockdown and has now largely eradicated COVID-19 and life is largely back to normal. While we go back and forth on lockdowns, one strong one to wipe out COVID-19 along with securing borders means we won’t have to keep going back into lockdown every few months.
- Lockdowns violate people’s freedoms: Rights are not and never have been absolute in Canada. Moment exercising one’s right harms another; government has right to limit it. In a pandemic, saving lives comes first full stop. The suspension of rights is temporary and will be fully restored once the pandemic is under control. And besides pretty tough to be free when you are dead.
- It only kills elderly: For starters that is not true. Yes risk is higher with elderly, but there have been deaths amongst younger people too. But more importantly this says a lot about who we are as a society. I would like to live in a society that cares about people, not one that is everyone for themselves and to Hell with consequences to others. I want to live in a society where all lives are valued, not just those that are most economically valuable.
- It has a 99.97% survival rate: It does not, in fact death rate is around 2% and even many of those who do survive have life long health ailments. Its quite possible many young people who get it and recover will end up dying earlier than would otherwise due to respiratory problems. We still don’t know this and won’t for a while.
- Many health experts oppose lockdowns: A minority do as experts are rarely united on any issue. Its no different than 3% of scientist don’t believe in man made climate change, but 97% do and most of us who believe in science listen to the 97% who do not 3% who don’t. On this issue, far more experts support lockdowns than oppose. Very few issues will experts by 100% in agreement on so it makes sense to listen to what the majority think, not a minority who disagree.
- We cannot afford the lockdown as our debt is too large: I like many are concerned about our rising debt, but our debt to GDP is still not near crisis levels and more importantly with record low interest rates, we can afford to borrow. Yes new permanent programs must be avoided as low interest rates won’t stay forever, but these are temporary supports and will be gone long before interest rates rise.
Despite my criticism above of Conservative premiers and many on right, I am not letting Liberals or left off the hook. On vaccines, it has been a massive disappointment. More than 50 countries per capita are ahead of us including almost all developed countries and several developing. And its getting worse each day. If things aren’t turned around soon, I am afraid we won’t vaccinate enough to return to herd immunity until sometime in 2022 at the earliest and this would be devastating. Way we end lockdowns is get people vaccinated. In both UK and US, they are doing such a good job that there is a good chance both will be able to return to normal by summer. By contrast in Canada we can forget about that and returning to normal by Fall is a long shot. I really hope Trudeau delivers and we do get everyone vaccinated by end of September, but so far I don’t have a lot of confidence. I know a lot of Trudeau supporters will make excuses but reality is data is data and on this we are failing. I don’t care about excuses government wants, I want to hear how this is going to be fixed. At end of day I care about results and while I realize governments can only do so much; I often compare us to others as a good metric on what is possible. And when we are doing much worse than other developed countries, that is a strong sign government is underperforming. Numbers don’t lie nor do numbers have partisan affiliation and thus why I think there are the best metrics for evaluating government even if not fair. As an investor, I look to results from companies I invest in and when they underperform, I do not invest. And I don’t care what excuses they give, underperformance is underperformance and there are consequences for it. Trudeau needs to quit thinking about an election or politics and focus on getting Canadians vaccinated. Do a good job there and Canadians will rightly reward government. But mess up there and expect consequences. I am not arguing this to score political points; I truly want our government to succeed here and would no matter which party was in power as the sooner people are vaccinated, the better for all of us. But when this far behind, I have every right to be upset and to criticize them for this. And just as I criticized Conservative premiers above, I can assure readers I would be saying same thing if a Conservative government was as far behind. I don’t care which party it is, I care about results. I generally support Conservatives as they are party that most closely aligns with my world views, but they are not above criticism from me nor will I blindly oppose Liberals. I will both praise and criticize any party where warranted.