Canada is shocked by the grim news of the coronavirus.
The extreme northern Canadian territory of Nunavut lost its status as the last place in Canada that does not contain Covid-19. Toronto canceled its resumption and imposed the longest and strictest closure the province has seen since the first wave of the pandemic. And the federal government said Friday that if Canadians do not reduce contact with each other and the provinces do not impose more restrictions, the country is on track for 60,000 new cases a day by the end of the year, about 5.5 times larger than now.
Some doctors and scientists say that in order to deal with the crisis, Canada must strive not just to limit the spread of the virus, but to eliminate new infections. This is an idea known on social media as #COVIDzero, and is gaining momentum around the world.
The big question is how aggressive countries should become. Australia gives an example.
Two of my colleagues in Australia, Ian Zhuang and Damien Cave, examined Melbourne’s 111-day hibernation. It eliminated cases in the city of five million, but the measures went beyond anything Canada had seen and included a strict curfew and strict travel restrictions.
My colleagues described “a dizzying and lonely experience that many in Melbourne described as an emotional train with effects on the economy, education and mental health that will continue.”
I spoke with Dr. Irfan Dala, an associate professor at the Institute of Health Policy, Management and Evaluation at the University of Toronto, about Covid-zero, an idea he raised in the Globe and Mail, published in May.
He told me that he did not offer to copy Australia’s heavy lock and that he supported keeping schools open in Canada. Instead, he said, “We need to look at Covid-zero as a collective cry for a better approach.”
Dr Dalla said that several Asian countries, especially Korea, could serve as role models, but “the most convincing example” was the four Atlantic provinces. Their main difference: the decision to form a travel balloon. Most outsiders who enter must be quarantined.
The New York Times showed on Friday that Newfoundland and Nova Scotia had an average of just 0.3 cases per 100,000 people in the previous week, New Brunswick was 0.7 and Prince Edward Island had no cases at all.