Allison Hanes: Quebec hasn’t discovered its lesson about inconsistent messaging


If the federal government is so fearful concerning the unfold of COVID-19 throughout March break, why did it simply loosen restrictions?

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When Montreal was slammed tougher than the remainder of the nation by the primary wave of the pandemic, it was chalked up to bad timing.

Quebec’s spring break, which at all times falls on the primary week of March, straddled the Rubicon between regular life and the world being turned the other way up. One week, it appeared ridiculous to contemplate cancelling seaside getaways, European holidays or ski journeys. However by the point Quebecers have been heading house, many had picked up greater than souvenirs or seashells on their travels.

On account of this unlucky timing, COVID-19 didn’t simply trickle into Quebec, it crashed upon us.

Virtually a yr and greater than 10,000 deaths later, nobody desires a repeat of that catastrophe. Particularly not with new COVID-19 circumstances, hospitalizations and ICU admissions ebbing. Particularly not when well being employees — and everybody else — are already weary from practically a yr of residing with this menace in our midst. Particularly not when vaccines are lastly arriving, albeit slowly. Particularly not when new, extra contagious, extra deadly strains might erode the bottom we’ve gained.

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So the timing was curious when Premier François Legault last week announced the easing of a few of the public well being measures which were in place since at the least Christmas. Non-essential retail shops received again to enterprise Monday. So did hairdressers and museums — even in sizzling spots like Montreal. In the meantime, extra distant areas, just like the Gaspé and Bas-St-Laurent, have been downgraded to orange-zone standing, permitting eating places, cinemas and live performance halls to reopen with decreased capability and social distancing.

Stranger nonetheless, then, is the timing of Legault’s newest fear: the best way to mitigate the fallout from March Break 2021, which is simply across the nook.

Because the federal authorities — partly at Quebec’s behest — pushed airways to droop flights to solar locations till the top of April, the hazards of overseas journey have been minimized. However Legault is now fearful about staycationing Quebecers spreading COVID-19 or, worse, the brand new variants from inside. There are 44 confirmed or suspected cases of the U.Okay. mutation in Montreal and a handful of the South African strain in the Abitibi. Extra could possibly be lurking.

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The curfew will certainly be prolonged. Now there’s talk of roadblocks to stop people from travelling between areas, and even erecting checkpoints on the Quebec-Ontario border (presumably to maintain Quebecers from leaving, since Ontario’s March break has been postponed till April).

Legault is advising Quebecers to not enterprise too far or let the grandparents babysit the children. And for the love of God, he warned, if households do go to their chalets, they need to stay of their family bubbles.

This recommendation all is smart to keep away from one other horrible spring break hangover. Besides simply final week Legault instructed Quebecers that as much as 4 adults from 4 addresses might meet for out of doors bodily exercise in purple zones and as much as eight in orange ones.

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So, which is it?

This yo-yoing is just not solely mind-boggling, it’s complicated. The loosening of the foundations sends the message that we are able to let down our guard a bit. The next urging of warning comes as too little, too late.

Clear messaging is very essential for a interval like March break. Quebec merely doesn’t have the sources to observe everybody’s actions. It badly wants the general public to grasp the stakes with a purpose to get our co-operation.

What makes the newest inconsistency and incoherence significantly incomprehensible is that March break is just not some sudden, unforeseeable occasion. Like Halloween and Christmas, it’s set on the calendar. The federal government knew the vacation interval was approaching. Why didn’t it wait till after this time to alter the foundations? Or higher but, why not wait till the slight dwindling of circumstances — maybe, perhaps, fingers crossed — had turn out to be a extra pronounced downward development?

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It’s exasperating that nearly a yr after this disaster started, we haven’t discovered that half measures and speedy reversals don’t work. They only extend the agony for everybody, from struggling restaurant house owners to well being employees who haven’t had a trip in ages.

Why haven’t we adopted the lead of New Zealand and Australia, which react to even a single case of COVID-19 with swift and drastic measures? They not solely stop bigger outbreaks, they make sure the lockdowns finish sooner, saving the economic system and defending faculties.

As an alternative, most Quebecers have been residing in purgatory since Oct. 1. And we’re about to tempt destiny as soon as once more by withdrawing preventive measures in some areas on the precise time Quebecers usually tend to journey there.

Hindsight ought to be 20/20. As an alternative, it’s a blind spot.

ahanes@postmedia.com

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