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April 15, 2021

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VIEWPOINT: The new normal is a still evolving and far from established
By Fred Sherwin
April 15, 2021

“The new normal” has to be one of my least-liked concepts of the entire pandemic. It has been used to try and normalize the never-ending cycle of closures and reopenings we have been experiencing for the past 12 months.

No one should accept what we’re going through as normal. What is the new normal is the existence of the virus itself. Most scientists agree that the COVID-19 virus and its various mutations and variants will be around for generations to come, or at least until another coronavirus replaces it.

One of the main factors in keeping the virus in circulation is the inability to vaccinate most of the world’s population in any sort of timely manner. The experts say it could take years to vaccinate many third-world countries in Africa, Central and South America and Asia. In the meantime, the virus will continue to mutate and spread around the world as the drug companies try to keep up with new vaccines.

In other words, even after we vaccinate our own population, the threat of new variants entering our country will exist. But we won’t be able to vaccinate everyone. Vaccine hesitancy and the inability of some people to take the vaccine due to health reasons will likely result in an 80 per cent vaccine rate at best.

The flu vaccine rate in past years has hovered around 42 per cent. Due to the added risk of complications from COVID-19, the coronavirus vaccine rate is expected to be much, much higher. But even if you are able to vaccinate 90 per cent of the population, that would still leave 100,000 people left vulnerable to the virus in Ottawa alone.

All of which to say people will continue to catch the virus, get sick and possibly even die from COVID-19 even after the first round of vaccines is over. That’s the new reality. That’s the new normal. At some point in time, we are going to have to accept that fact and deal with it, not by endless shutdowns and restrictions every time there is a new outbreak, but by expanding the capacity of our hospitals in order to treat those who get sick.

There is a belief in some circles that the best way to get ride of COVID-19 is a strict extended lockdown combined with extensive testing similar to what they’ve done in New Zealand, Australia, South Korea and Taiwan. And while the strict measures have worked in allowing them to reopen their economies, including sporting events, they haven’t allowed them to reopen their countries. They all still have strict travel bans in place and will likely remain closed for several months with continued localized shutdowns every time a new outbreak occurs until they get the majority of their populations vaccinated, after which they will open up and COVID-19 will still be around only not in the news.

You are not going to eradicate COVID-19 like you did smallpox which took 200 years to get rid of.

Job one is getting as many people vac-cinated as possible. Job two is the expansion of hospital capacity. And job three is creating our own R&D and production of vaccines.

Finally, we need to accept the fact that COVID-19 is here to stay. That means that people who either don’t want to get vaccinated, or can’t due to health reasons, must accept the risks that come with it.

The new normal for them may be wearing a mask 24/7, washing their vegetables after every trip to the supermarket and avoiding large crowds.

For for the rest of us, the new normal may include working from home more often and having to show your vaccination card before getting on a flight, but at least you will be able to fly.

The new normal may also include higher taxes to help pay for expanded hospital capa-city and all those free vaccinations.

The cost of the free flu vaccine program is hard to pin down.

According to a report in the Globe & Mail dated Nov. 12 2009, the total cost of the program at that time was $1.9 billion. But that was 12 years ago. Take inflation into account along with the fact that the COVID-19 vaccines cost more than the flu vaccine, double the vaccination rate, and you’re looking at several billion dollars a year.

Welcome to the new normal.

(If you wish to comment on this or any other View Point column please write to Fred Sherwin at fsherwin@magma.ca)

 

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