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The Amherst News - 2020-03-25

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Take COVID-19 seriously; avoid panic

OPINION

During the March 15 news conference to announce Nova Scotia’s first three cases of COVID-19, the province’s medical officer of health, Dr. Robert Strang, said this is time when Nova Scotians need to think of each other, not themselves. Truer words could not be spoken. The province faces the onslaught of a virus that has been making its way across the globe from Wuhan, China, where it was first discovered in late 2019. During that time, several thousand people have lost their lives and more than 200,000 have taken ill. Fortunately, COVID-19 has a high recovery rate, but that’s not saying there isn’t plenty of risk for those who have compromised health. It’s for that reason, Nova Scotia and municipal units across the province are following the example of other jurisdictions by placing restrictions on the public, closing public buildings, March break in the school system to three weeks and prohibiting the public from long-term care facilities while asking people who have been out of the country to self-isolate themselves for 14 days. All this came mere hours after professional sports leagues, such as the NBA, NHL and Major League Baseball suspended their seasons, the Maritime Junior Hockey League cancelled its playoffs and the minor hockey season was prematurely ended cancelling provincials, tournaments, practices and team gatherings. We have the advantage that the Maritimes, and Canada for that matter, can use the experiences of elsewhere as its responds to the virus and prepares for its arrival in this section of the world. Yes, the virus is coming and people in this province are going to get sick, in some cases very sick. It’s quite likely some people will lose their lives because of this. It would be understandable if Nova Scotians battled the urge to freak out. These are not normal times and all of us need to take precautions to minimize its impact. Public health and government officials don’t want to alarm people, but they want them to take it seriously. That means there are going to be more than a few inconveniences in the coming weeks as the virus arrives, and hopefully, moves through without having too big an impact on the population. As Strang said, it really isn’t time to think of ourselves. For some reason, Nova Scotians – like others across North America – have thought it prudent to rush grocery stores and hoard things like toilet paper, hand sanitizer and disinfectant. As the virus takes hold, it’s possible that hysteria could be extended to food and emergency supplies. There is no question this is a global pandemic, one of the biggest threats to the health of this province and the country since the Spanish Flu epidemic of 1918-19, which killed 50 million worldwide and between 30,000 and 50,000 Canadians. The steps we take to protect ourselves and others will go a long way toward determining whether those inconveniences are just a shortterm measure or are extended over a period of months instead of weeks. That means avoiding a panic, restrict our movement for a short period of time and being prepared to self-isolate if experiencing some of the symptoms. It also means looking out for others in your neighbourhood and community and being prepared to go without if it means this crisis ends sooner instead of dragging on.

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