When the COVID-19 pandemic first reached Ontario a year ago and Doug Ford declared a state of emergency – shutting down restaurants and other non-essential businesses for several months – we were told that is was being done to prevent a surge on the provincial health care system and buy time.
The general assumption was that the province wanted to buy time to increase hospital capacity, improve our testing capabilities and develop effective treatments and vaccines.
They have failed miserably in the first two areas and while the medical research community has had mild success in developing treatments vaccines the federal government has so far refused to consider the construction of our own domestic manufacturing facility as they’ve done in the U.K. where the British government has contributed $275 million to build a Vaccine Manufacturing and Innovation Centre. The project announced last May. Once it’s completed next fall it will be able to produce enough doses of the vaccine to vaccinate their entire population in three months. Meanwhile, here in Canada we’re entirely dependent on the global supply chain.
But getting back to the excuse for the need to buy time to improve hospital capacity and our testing capabilities. It is clear that A) the capacity of hospitals to treat COVID patients, at least in our fair city, has not increased one iota, and B) our testing capabilities are still seriously inadequate.
You would think that after nearly a year of this madness, we would have a lot more ICU beds and ventilators, trained more nurses and increased our testing capabilities to allow for mass testing of the general population which would enable the powers that be to get a handle on just how prevalent the virus is in our community, including the percentage of people who are asymptomatic.
At least there is a glimmer of hope on that front with the news that Health Canada recently approved a rapid-testing device developed by Spartan Bioscience here in Ottawa. The device could prove to be a game-changer if enough are made. They would be perfect in schools, at airports, in senior care facilities and even in businesses where employees could be tested simply and quickly. They would eliminate the need for mindless closure orders and travel bans and allow businesses to reopen. More importantly they could allow for true mass testing of the population without having to wait 48 to 72 hours to get the results back.
But according to a recent Toronto Star report, the federal government has already procured 38 million rapid tests from various sources and at least 14 million rapid tests have been distributed to the provinces, including Ontario.
So why aren’t they being used? Will the Spartan Bioscience device end up with the rest of them? This is just another giant failure on the part of a provincial government whose only response to the pandemic is dramatic shutdowns and stay-at-home orders.
Ontario residents deserve better, but we have to speak up. As someone much wiser than me once said, if you act like sheep you will be treated like sheep.