Wednesday, February 21, 2024

Is it Really Almost Over?

With the first month of 2022 nearly finished, our pandemic life continues, but if the recent announcement by the Province holds true, by the middle of March many of the pandemic restrictions under which we have been living for more than two years will be lifted.

I doubt there is anyone in Ontario who is not looking forward to the end of this ordeal, but I also suspect that many, like myself, are cautiously optimistic, hopeful but braced for the news to change, for a new variant to rear its ugly head casting all plans for a return to normal into a pool of uncertainty.

In just a few days, restaurants in Ontario are expected to be able to reopen for indoor dining at 50 percent capacity. Along with the restaurants, gyms, theatres, and other places where we tend to gather in numbers will also ease back into operation. I would like to be excited, but we have been here before, so as mentioned, I remain cautiously optimistic.

In late February more restrictions are expected to be lifted, and by the middle of March all capacity limits are to be lifted, though mask and vaccine requirements will still be in place.

Pandemic-weary Ontarians can be forgiven if they don’t have faith that restrictions will actually be lifted, but I think we have reached the point where we are ready to live with this virus for the long term. After two years the virus is much better understood, vaccines have been developed, and treatments have also been developed, and recent reports suggest that we are fast approaching the endemic phase for this pesky virus.

Though the nations around the globe are closely connected in this modern age, intertwined even, we can often live as though we are in a silo, and as a result we lash out at our own government leaders when the reality is that the very same challenges and frustrations have been experienced in every nation on the planet. We will no doubt debate our response to this pandemic for years to come, and I’m not so certain we will ever come to a concrete agreement about exactly how we should have responded, but what we all certainly feel is that if there is a next time, we must do things differently.

This pandemic began with division. It began by dividing our workforce into ‘essential’ and ‘non-essential’, possibly one of our first mistakes. When you are wanting to bring people together, when you want to unite a population for a long battle ahead, I would suggest that the optics of labelling part of society as essential, and the rest as not, is not the greatest way to start off.

Business closures and stay at home orders will be hotly debated, and they should, as should the strategy for educating our students in the midst of a pandemic. I suspect that there will be many brainstorming sessions surrounding the appropriate language to be used when it comes to vaccines, and without doubt vaccine mandates will be a topic of much dissection.

While we may be in the final days of this overly lengthy pandemic, the issue will be with us for years. After we return to normal, whatever and whenever that will be, this pandemic will be a focus of discussion, if not a fixation for many, and I don’t see that as a bad thing. If we have learned anything from this pandemic it is that we are not prepared, no nation is prepared, and the next pandemic could be much worse; the next virus could be far more transmissible and far more deadly, and my hope is that we can develop some global and local strategies for the next one. And there will be a next one.

As I have written before, if we have done it wrong here at home, we are in good company, because every nation, every government, no matter its political stripe has struggled with the realities of this pandemic. Mistakes have certainly been made, but in addition to dissecting our mistakes, I hope we can acknowledge some of what we have done right. Certainly lives have been saved by some of the measures taken, and we should learn from those successes as much as from our failures.

It’s almost over, folks, we are nearing the end. And for all of us that is certainly a relief, but there is much work ahead, and there are debates in our future. Hopefully as we engage in those discussions we can be more respectful to each other than we have been far too often during the many months of this pandemic.

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