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Canadian health experts push for lockdowns using #COVIDZero online as cases rise

Last Updated Nov 16, 2020 at 2:06 pm PST

FILE - A sign on a shop window indicates the store is closed in Ottawa, Monday March 23, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Summary

Some doctors in Canada are calling for an end to the brief, two-week lockdowns as a way to tackle the COVID-19 pandemic

#COVIDZero is gaining momentum on Twitter, calling for a more drastic approach to curb the spread of COVID-19

Some doctors say longer, stricter restrictions are needed in the interim to address rising cases of COVID-19

Health experts are pushing for lockdowns while cases of COVID-19 across the country continue to add up — nearing 300,000.

As of Monday morning, Canada’s case count stood at 295,987.

Provinces, such as Ontario and Quebec, are reporting more than 1,000 new cases a day, and Alberta is getting close. B.C. also continues to shatter its daily case counts on a regular basis.

Now there’s a lot of talk about the “circuit breaker approach,” a two-week lockdown to get cases down.

Read more: Can ‘circuit breaker’ lockdowns slow COVID 19 spread or are they a band aid solution?

Dr. Andrew Morris, an infection disease expert at Toronto’s Sinai Health and University Health Network, and his colleagues are pushing the hashtag #COVIDZero on social media.

“Today—along with other colleagues—we are calling on governments to pursue a #COVIDzero strategy,” a tweet from Morris reads. “There are many ways that this can be pursued but acceptance of various levels of low cases or rates of transmission have proved to lead to repeated waves, and where we are today.”

The social media movement is a call to stamp out the virus — meaning longer and stricter restrictions.

“As most of the country enters into various restrictive measures to arrest transmission cycles, now is the time for governments and the public to decide: Q: Do we want repeated cycles of various tight restrictions, or do we wish to move to a more normal life?,” Morris writes, adding, “A: #COVIDzero.

National lockdown could crush small businesses: CFIB

The business industry is pushing back though.

Half of small businesses in Canada already reported a further drop in sales amid the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to the Canadian Federation of Independent Business.

Dan Kelly, president of CFIB, says a full national lockdown could crush many shop owners.

“I don’t think any business owner would object if there is compelling evidence that business activity is causing the spread of COVID-19, but that’s not what evidence that has been shared seems to be suggesting,” he says.

If there is another lockdown, many businesses wouldn’t reopen, he adds.

“This is killing businesses left, right, and centre. We have seen the tip of the iceberg of the impact of this,” he says.

“Again, if we’re going to shut down a business, we have to be ready with 100 per cent support — 100 per cent support — to help those businesses get across the COVID finish line, and despite what prime minister said the other day.”

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Morris told the Globe and Mail that if lockdowns are only implemented for a few weeks, the number of COVID-19 cases will just rise again. He said it’s going to take weeks and weeks to drive the number of cases down dramatically — as close to zero as possible — but adds we won’t have to worry about further lockdowns.

Experts say the circuit breaker concept isn’t really different from what we’ve already experienced throughout the pandemic. The idea is a limited intervention that could break the chain of transmission and give health-care and COVID management systems, including testing and contact tracing, some breathing room.

Some, however, have noted that the definition of a circuit breaker lockdown can be fluid.

Economists warn that full-on lockdowns will add hundreds of billions of dollars in new government debt.

Canada’s top doctor, Theresa Tam, is pleading with Canadians to not let their guard down in indoor settings as winter approaches.

-with files from Sonia Aslam and Cormac Mac Sweeney