Sunday, June 14, 2020

How Do You Score This One?

The results aren't in yet. It could be months, a year perhaps, before we have the Covid-19 death tallies but, at the moment, we know who won't be at the head of the class: Trump, Bolsonaro, Johnson.  I expect India's Modi will be rubbing elbows with those rightwing clowns before long as the pandemic lockdown is lifted while India's hospitals are already overwhelmed.

The editor of the British medical journal, The Lancet, Richard Horton, has already released a book, "The Covid-19 Catastrophe: What's Gone Wrong and How to Stop It Happening Again," that points the Reaper's bony finger directly at Boris Johnson.
He lambasts the management of the virus as “the greatest science policy failure for a generation”, attacks the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) for becoming “the public relations wing of a government that had failed its people”, calls out the medical Royal Colleges, the Academy of Medical Sciences, the British Medical Association (BMA) and Public Health England (PHE) for not reinforcing the World Health Organization’s public health emergency warning back in February, and damns the UK’s response as “slow, complacent and flat-footed”, revealing a “glaringly unprepared” government and a “broken system of obsequious politico-scientific complicity”.
As editor of the Lancet, he’s particularly aggrieved that the series of five academic papers the journal published in late January first describing the novel coronavirus in disturbing detail went unheeded.

“In several of the papers they talked about the importance of personal protective equipment,” he reminds me. “And the importance of testing, the importance of avoiding mass gatherings, the importance of considering school closure, the importance of lockdowns. All of the things that have happened in the last three months here, they’re all in those five papers.” 
He still can’t understand why the government’s scientific advisers didn’t consult their counterparts in China. The world of medicine is a small one, he says, and everyone knows the people responsible for coordinating the Chinese government’s response. 
“These are people they could have literally sent an email to, or picked the phone up to, and said, ‘Hey, we read your paper in the Lancet, can it really be as bad as that? What is going on in Wuhan?’ And if they’d done that they would have found out that this was indeed as bad as described.”
Modern governments are more attuned to monitoring the health of the economy than the wellbeing of the general public. A pretty timid bunch, all things considered, seemingly incapable of dialing down the arresting power of prudence even when an major emergency lands in their lap.

Ottawa, for example, declared a climate state of emergency one day and the very next day greenlighted a major bitumen pipeline expansion. Counter-intuitive? Ya think? The climate emergency, such as it ever was, now seems all but forgotten.

The Trudeau government may have dropped the Covid ball at the outset but nothing compared to the gross negligenc e of Trump, Bolsonaro or Johnson. Those guys have on their hands the needless and usually gruesome deaths of tens of thousands of their countrymen.

Sure, Trudeau could have acted sooner. The Liberal government could have been faster to seal our borders, that sort of thing. However it strikes me that our provincial governments bear most of the responsibility for the death tolls within their jurisdiction. Take nursing home deaths. That was a catastrophe waiting to happen, waiting for years, decades. Can't pin that on the feds. The provinces also were in charge of matters such as social distancing, quarantines, commercial property closures and such.

Some did better than others.  Compare  Alberta and British Columbia for example. They're about even in size, 5 versus 4.5 million. B.C. is a transportation hub. Vancouver airport is the second busiest in Canada (combined flights/passengers). Vancouver is Canada's busiest sea port. B.C. is Canada's gateway to Asia and the Pacific. Vancouver also links to Washington (Seattle) where there was an early outbreak of the pandemic.

B.C. was hit by Covid-19 first and experienced clusters in nursing homes. To date B.C. has had 168 deaths, Alberta 150.  B.C. has had 2,700 confirmed cases. Alberta, more than double that at 7,300. Alberta has the youngest population in Canada, 36.7 years on average, which may account for its somewhat lower fatality count. The average in B.C. is 41.4 years but British Columbia has the highest proportion of seniors of any province west of Quebec.

In other words, British Columbia, ought to have had a higher death rate than we have experienced. At roughly one-third the population of Ontario, perhaps something in the order of 800 dead. 168 dead is bad enough but, with all the factors at play in British Columbia, we've done quite well. Maybe a B+.  Alberta, a B- to C+.  Ontario, a solid D. Quebec, the country's only F. And the feds, B- to C+.

Overall, I think we've done well, provincially and federally, but we could have done better. Compared to the United States, Brazil or Britain, we've done amazingly well. Compared to New Zealand, we're looking pretty shabby.

Of course we haven't heard the end of Covid-19. It has not been wrestled to the ground and a second wave is widely anticipated.  But, long after Covid is in the medical history books, alongside SARS, we'll be dealing with the economic and social aftermath. That might be a good time to evaluate our national resilience to prepare for whatever is coming next.


Gordie Canuk said...

The statistic I'll be anxious to see early in 2021 is the total mortality figure for 2020. In 2019 there were 287K deaths in Canada, in 2018 it was 282K, for 2017 there were 274K and then in 2016 there 262K....

By my thoroughly non-scientific reckoning I'm guessing that before Covid-19 Canada was likely going to have somewhere around 290,000 deaths.

Then we can break it down by province.

Anonymous said...

Compared to Australia we have done extremely poorly. But as Terence McKenna pointed out in his CBC report last week, they had an actual plan, and their constitution means the feds run LTC and do real inspections, and staff don't have two jobs. There are plenty of interactions with foreigners, particularly those of China and India who are busy digging up Aussie coal among other things. 102 deaths for Australia, population 25.5 million. And that place is run by the right wing twit Scott Morrison. The thing is they had a plan for pandemics and implemented it -- masks, just like Germany. In addition they have performed 1.8 million tests versus 2.1 million in Canada with 50% higher population.

I'd give Canada as a whole a D.

I bypass the messing around websites and go for a straight tabulation by country available here:

You'll see that Canada hasn't been great at all. I look at deaths per million population. Australia is at 4.1, Canada is at 220, 50 times worse.

Stark difference.

Canadian provincial figures are most easily accessed here:

For some reason, deaths are reported there by the 100,000, so you have to multiply their results by ten. No glory for our country, I'm afraid. Quebec at 612 deaths per million, Ontario at 171. Quebec and the UK (627) are almost tied, so the commentary by the Lancet editor applies to Quebec as well. If we were to drill down and look at the Montreal area by itself, all I can say is -- it must be disquieting to live there.

Alberta and BC are tied at 33 deaths per million, so eight times worse than Australia at 4.1


The Disaffected Lib said...

I agree, Gordie. We'll have to wait until sometime next year to have a reliable picture of this virus and its various impacts. They'll range from direct deaths to disruption in the provision of other medical services, i.e. cancer and cardiac care, to economic dislocation. In the States they claim it will be years before their economy recovers from this.

I expect we'll see a lot of change before this decade is out.

The Disaffected Lib said...

Australia has the advantage of remoteness so the results shouldn't be surprising, BM. Ditto for New Zealand.

Canada had no national plan. That's the Achilles Heel of Confederation. The differing approaches taken by the provinces are directly reflected in the death rates, especially in Quebec and Ontario. 23 million of our 37 million population are in those two provinces and that really skews the national averages.

Ottawa can't really be faulted for the failings of Ontario and Quebec which is why I spared the feds a D.

As for B.C. and Alberta being tied, that is more difficult for me to understand. There are just so many reasons why Alberta should have far lower rates than British Columbia.

Northern PoV said...

You've listed the worst places in the world in regarding Covid-19 response and outcomes ... all led by proto-dictators. But you missed one.

Trump, Bolsonaro, Johnson, Modi ... and Putin

The Disaffected Lib said...

It is indeed the Thugs Gallery, NPoV.