Comparing Canada’s response to COVID-19
Comparing Canada’s response to the US’ response is tricky. Since the start of the epidemic, the coronavirus has infected more than 143000 US citizens. 2500 have died from the resulting disease, according to John Hopkins University. Moreover, the US has now overtaken China and Italy for number of cases.
One cannot underestimate the impact of the outbreak. Only in New York, the virus has killed over 1000 people and brought the state to a complete standstill. Also, despite having almost half of Canada’s population, only in New York the virus has infected almost sixty thousand people.
In comparing the two types of responses, it is useful to look at relevant sources. A report from the New York Times cites bureaucracy and lack of leadership as the cause for such a dire situation. In other words, the US failed to understand just how much consequence the outbreak would have on its population.
Paul Offit, infectious disease expert at the University of Pennsylvania, stated that the US largely ignored the severity of the situation in the country. Offit said: “We were very slow to to prohibit travel into this country from China or regions in that area where the virus was circulating. When we finally did that, it was too late.”
Canada’s leadership was quick to act
In comparison, many have applauded Canadian institutions and leadership during the outbreak. Hoption Cann, professor at the University of British Columbia, made clear what were the differences. “What we’ve seen through this spreading pandemic is that there’s a lot of co-ordination on quarantine measures and closures from one province to the next, whereas you see the U.S., there’s quite large differences in what’s happening from one state to the next.”
An efficient coordination and cooperation in the provinces is without a doubt one of the key aspects of Canada’s response. Hoption Cann, moreover, singles out the provinces’ extensive testing measures, with over 220000 tests as of Monday. Also, he cited the difference in healthcare systems as being significant.
Canadians have the advantage of accessing care without insurance nor additional costs, whereas in the US still stand significant economic barriers. But these are not the only factors: population density is another relevant aspect.
Epidemiologist Cynthia Carr in Winnipeg described the situation in New York City: “You have people living in very overcrowded apartments and living situations, and those people will be at even higher risk.”
Yet another epidemiologist, Sarah Albrecht of Columbia University, remarks that NYC as a global hub makes it particularly exposed. “In many ways, it’s what makes NYC a unique and exciting place”, she said. Unfortunately, it is also what allows the disease to take hold and spread so quickly.
Meanwhile, Canada has put over 11 billion dollars in the fight against coronavirus. But it remains unclear whether a shortage of respirators across the provinces could bring the country to its knees. That is why social distancing measures and partial lockdown will stay in place for the coming weeks.