OHS Canada Magazine

COVID-19 safety is not subjective

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February 1, 2021
By Marcel Vander Wier

Compliance & Enforcement Health & Safety COVID-19 editor pick public health

Deliberate flaunting of public health rules is cause for concern as Canada endures extended pandemic

Public health advice surrounding COVID-19 has been a contentious issue for many since the first lockdown began in March 2020. (Maridav/Adobe Stock)

It’s not quite rocket science — the spread of the novel coronavirus that has locked down much of the world through this past year does not discriminate.

COVID-19 has been a contentious issue for many since the first lockdown began in March of last year. Safety measures implemented have been politicized, criticized and even defied by many across Canada.

Cities and towns across our the nation have been the sites of anti-mask rallies and freedom marches, many spurred by the extreme duration of lockdown measures mandated by our federal, provincial and municipal leaders.

In January, Canada crossed the 700,000 case threshold, and the number of deaths associated with the virus ticked past 18,000.

No doubt, this pandemic has tested our collective resolve as a global community.


Alongside the death toll, many have lost businesses or endured strained mental health as a result of isolation and extended school closures.

The needs and coping mechanisms of every individual vary  — citizens and families are getting by in different ways and I understand the disparity in that respect.

Addressing anti-mask protests poses a challenge for leaders, experts say

But what I cannot endorse is the deliberate flaunting of public health rules by a select few — specifically when it comes to workplace safety.

From my vantage point, the vast majority of businesses are doing their part, adjusting operations to help stop the spread and maintain capacity in our provincial health-care systems.

But some have openly defied — and have found public support in doing so. A now-infamous Toronto barbecue establishment comes to mind.

For their part, Canadian politicians have done their best to convey public health advice simply and steadfastly.

Wear a mask. Wash your hands. Watch your distance.

Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister took it a step further prior to Christmas: “If you don’t think that COVID’s real — right now, you’re an idiot.”

I feel for our leaders making the tough calls through this season.

Look — I get it. If your region hasn’t been particularly hard-hit by this virus, the drastic lockdown measures can seem extreme and frankly unnecessary.

Prince Edward Island declares two-week ‘circuit-breaker’ lockdown

Living in west Toronto, I know of my fair share of cases and have seen just how effective the public health measures are in curbing the spread.

Watching the good work done in the province of Prince Edward Island has also been eye-opening. Their December “circuit-breaker” lockdown worked to near perfection.

If not for public health guidance, this situation could look much uglier than it already does. One needs only to look at the death toll south of the border to see that.

COVID-19 safety is not subjective. The quicker we collectively understand and respect this, the sooner things will return to normal.

This editorial appears in the January/February 2021 issue of OHS Canada.


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