Canada among best in class in cop­ing with COVID-19 catas­tro­phe, stats show

Diane Fran­cis sees the sil­ver lin­ing with game-chang­ers of tests and fu­ture vac­cine.

Vancouver Sun - - FI­NAN­CIAL POST -

In a bleak world, Cana­di­ans are luck­ier than most, ac­cord­ing to a snap­shot of global sta­tis­tics re­leased this week by the web­site Worl­dome­ter. The stats show that, so far, Canada has fared com­par­a­tively well through­out this pan­demic, thanks to the fact that the coun­try is or­ga­nized, its peo­ple are dis­ci­plined and its health-care sys­tem is among the best in the world.

As a re­sult, Canada’s coro­n­avirus fa­tal­i­ties are com­par­a­tively min­i­mal, as of Wed­nes­day, but still to­tal a tragic 12 deaths per mil­lion. (What is cu­ri­ous is that Que­bec’s fa­tal­i­ties are much higher — 20 deaths per mil­lion).

That aside, many other coun­tries are far­ing far worse, ac­cord­ing to daily sta­tis­tics. Canada’s 12 deaths per mil­lion com­pares to Ger­many’s 28 deaths per mil­lion, Amer­ica’s 45, Swe­den’s 79, the United Kingdom’s 105, France’s 167, Italy’s 292 and Spain’s 326. The low­est rates — among de­vel­oped na­tions whose fig­ures can be trusted — is South Korea, with four deaths per mil­lion, and Aus­tralia, with only two.

These fig­ures are not static and will in­crease daily un­til a vac­cine is found, which is most likely at least 12 months away. The good news is that there ap­pears to be 20 or so promis­ing com­pounds and ex­per­i­ments un­der­way that are re­pur­pos­ing ex­ist­ing drugs that have been found to be ef­fec­tive at fight­ing other dis­eases. This may speed up the dis­cov­ery of an ef­fec­tive treat­ment.

But heal­ing the econ­omy is an­other is­sue and the good news is that ubiq­ui­tous test­ing can get peo­ple back to work sooner rather than later. But tests are the key.

Ger­many is the leader and is al­ready ad­min­is­ter­ing 50,000 tests daily (in com­par­i­son, the best Cana­dian prov­ince is Al­berta, which, at its peak, was ad­min­is­ter­ing 4,000 tests per day, and has plans to ex­pand test­ing). Glob­ally, South Korea is the best in class and has flat­tened the vi­ral curve dra­mat­i­cally through test­ing, quar­an­tin­ing and re-test­ing.

Com­pa­nies and coun­tries are now rac­ing to pro­duce mil­lions of test kits that are ca­pa­ble of ac­cu­rately and quickly di­ag­nos­ing the dis­ease.

Right now, tests are needed to pro­tect front-line work­ers and the el­derly, but also, on a ran­dom ba­sis, to iden­tify in­di­vid­u­als, build­ings or neigh­bour­hoods that are hot spots. Even­tu­ally, test­ing must be­come manda­tory, and those who are in­fected should be re­lo­cated to empty ho­tels or dor­mi­to­ries un­der med­i­cal su­per­vi­sion, be­cause, as we’ve seen in Italy and else­where, al­low­ing in­fected peo­ple to re­main in their homes al­lows the dis­ease to spread through fam­i­lies and neigh­bour­hoods.

Test­ing must also be ac­com­pa­nied by a strict sys­tem of iden­ti­fi­ca­tion, on­line or other­wise. This is nec­es­sary in or­der to get the econ­omy work­ing again. Un­der such a sys­tem, peo­ple who don’t have the dis­ease would be en­ti­tled to re­turn to work, re­open their busi­nesses, ride the bus, babysit, vol­un­teer, teach and at­tend school, gather at restau­rants and parks, etc. This will breathe life into an econ­omy that cur­rently has hardly any pulse.

Con­cerns that this dis­ease can be in­cu­bated for some time means that re-test­ing must also be part of the process. To un­der­take this, many coun­tries have es­tab­lished thou­sands of test sites out­doors be­hind fold­ing screens, or in park­ing lots or drug stores. The good news is that the vast ma­jor­ity of those who test pos­i­tive re­cover with­out hos­pi­tal­iza­tion.

Al­berta has ad­min­is­tered more tests per capita than most coun­tries, and has fo­cused ini­tially on those with symp­toms, the el­derly and front-line work­ers.

An­other pos­i­tive de­vel­op­ment is that there are many test­ing de­vices be­ing cre­ated or pro­duced. One Amer­i­can phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal gi­ant is ship­ping a por­ta­ble rapid-test­ing de­vice that di­ag­noses peo­ple within five min­utes.

But the sil­ver lin­ing in this cloud is that tens of mil­lions of physi­cians, sci­en­tists and tech­nol­o­gists from around the world are rac­ing to find vac­cines and treat­ments. They are con­duct­ing tens of thou­sands of ex­per­i­ments and shar­ing in­for­ma­tion un­like ever be­fore, and gov­ern­ments have ex­pe­dited clin­i­cal trial ap­provals.

This means a game-changer or two will sur­face sooner rather than later.

In the mean­time, Canada, with its dis­ci­plined pop­u­lace, sup­port­ive gov­ern­ments and ex­cel­lent cen­tral­ized health-care sys­tems re­mains one of the best in class in cop­ing with the coro­n­avirus so far.

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