Streets are empty. Schools, bars and restaurants are closed. Normally congested intersections are bare and rush hour is non-existent. This is the new normal.
As the novel coronavirus continues its rampage across the country, Canadians are slowly getting more accustomed to the new reality facing them — a reality in which a pandemic has utterly changed how they live for the foreseeable future.
“Normality as it was before will not come back full-on until we get a vaccine for this… That will be a very long way off,” Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Thursday.
For now, Canadians should get used to social distancing and only leaving their homes sparingly, to either go to work (for essential workers) or to get groceries. And while Trudeau did hint at a phased reopening of the economy when the first wave of the pandemic was done, even then, he warned things won’t be “normal.”
“You need a plan B, you need phase two,” Jeremy Konyndyk, an expert in pandemic preparedness at the Centre for Global Development in Washington, D.C. said.
“You have to pass the baton to a different set of protective measures so that you can keep cases low while actually having a functional economy again and allowing people to move again.”
But that will happen only after the first wave of the pandemic ends.
More than 20,000 Canadians have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to data collected by John Hopkins University. As of Friday morning, more than 500 Canadians have died with the disease.
Ninety-four per cent of Canadians acknowledge COVID-19 is a serious health risk but only 63 per cent are confident that most Canadians are taking physical distancing measures seriously, according to a recent Ipsos poll done exclusively for Global News.
British Columbia was among the first provinces to enact social distancing and strict measures meant to limit the spread of the virus. Dr. Bonnie Henry, B.C.’s provincial health officer, told Global News that trying to do what’s needed to stop the virus while also worrying about the unintended consequences of those measures is a difficult balance.
“It weighs on me, you know, we want to put in enough restrictions to do what we need to do to contain this virus,” she said. “I think everything about this has been so challenging and the sort of balance of trying to get just enough restriction to do what we need to do but not too much. It haunts me a little bit, because you can’t ever get it just right.”
Health officials still aren’t sure where Canada is on the pandemic curve they’ve been urging Canadians to flatten.
It’s still unclear what extended epidemic controls — the measures in place once the first wave is over — would look like.
Dr. Peter Hotez, a vaccine scientist at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, Texas, told Global News that he believes governments need a strategy for how daily life will operate for the next two years.
“That’s a possible scenario, but how do you operationalize that and how do you inform companies or universities when to stay open, went to close?” he said.
This and other important topics will be addressed in a new weekly 7 p.m. local Sunday special on Global News, titled ‘Coronavirus: The New Reality.’ The show will delve into exclusive polling on the pressures that the coronavirus crisis is putting on the finances of Canadians, give advice on how to prepare children for what is to come, and show why testing could be key to flattening the curve,
“At a time when sharing credible information is more important than ever, Global News is proud to add more programming that offers valuable context,” said Kenton Boston, Vice President, National and Network News, Global News.
Global News reporters will speak with those on the frontlines, sharing one-on-one interviews with emergency room doctors, epidemiologists, and British Columbia’s provincial health officer.
‘Coronavirus: The New Reality’ will also unveil new insight into how Canadians are steeling themselves financially for the new reality of going weeks, if not months, with little or no work. According to Ipsos, 34 per cent of people say their employment situation has been impacted in some way over the last month and nearly 60 per cent of people are concerned about their ability to pay their bills.
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