Conversations With Susan Millar: - Covid Internationally

Some countries of the world have been much more successful at taming Covid than Canada. In this episode of “Conversations with Susan Millar”, pandemic historian and City Councillor, Jamie McEvoy, provides an overview of the countries who have done well and how they did it. In comparison, he says, “Canada has not much to be proud of.”

First, he provides an overview of the African continent, which many thought would be very badly hit, but as he explains, this has not been the case, with the exceptions of South Africa and Tanzania. As many of the countries had to deal with Ebola in the recent past, they were well-aware of the hazards of a nasty pandemic. They had plans, which were put in place quickly, including shutting down airports, screening and contact tracing. They also had the refrigerators needed to keep vaccines, already in place. In comparison, South Africa reacted slowly and Tanzania is no longer providing numbers to the WHO (World Health Organization), likely because their numbers have skyrocketed, he says, and their leader is exhorting the people to go to church and pray.

A number of countries in South East Asia have done well, including Taiwan, Korea, Vietnam, and now, China. Vietnam, he says, is a stellar example. They have had only 35 deaths, despite having a long border with China. On hearing of the very first case of coronavirus in January of 2020, the country shut down the borders to all – there was not designation of essential travel. They put in place a National Committee on Strategy before the end of January, while most western countries did not act until mid-March. They put scientists in charge of determining steps forward, and, they decided to be transparent in reporting their Covid numbers, which they did to the WHO.

While Vietnam is a dictatorship and one would think it would be easier to put in force strict regulations, Jaimie points out that a number of democracies have been very successful too, including New Zealand, Taiwan and American Samoa, which has had no deaths. New Zealand took early and effective action based on an existing plan, including border closures and mandatory quarantines. While the plan wasn't fool-proof, for example, it called for screening and contact tracing, which they couldn't easily put in place quickly, they immediately created new plans to meet the threat of the virus.

He compares the successes of these countries to Canada, which in his view, has largely acted slowly and ineffectively. For example, mandatory quarantines have only come in to force, a full year after the virus arose. In addition, the messaging has lacked clarity, particularly in Ontario and Quebec, where the population is supposed to understand and differentiate between the different tiers of action in various regions of these provinces.

The country that Jaimie most worries about is the United States. Only two-thirds of the population have indicated a willingness to be vaccinated. As he points out, this is not enough to create herd immunity. But we can hope that more Americans will decide to be inoculated.

By Susan Millar

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