Vezina: We never had a real quarantine

People living in democracies do not respect or fear government enough to agree to true isolation.

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More than two years later, the number of COVID-19 cases is on the rise again, and many people are worried about “returning to self-isolation mode.”

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The reality is that Canada has never closed during a pandemic. At the same time, non-critical enterprises and services, both private and public, were closed.

Quarantine means that people cannot leave their home. What is happening in Shanghai in China is quarantine.

Pulling people outside and beating them because they complain that they are starving is isolation.

Here’s what the strategy actually entails and how serious it is.

In Canada, people were free to shop at grocery stores. During the quarantine, the military delivers emergency rations to people’s homes in fully self-contained breathing apparatus.

Lockdowns are usually reserved for highly contagious, deadly viruses—think diseases with a mortality rate of 10% or higher for anyone who catches them—because they have very serious consequences, including:

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1. Economic damage: the economy in the closed zone is practically frozen, the delivery of online goods is extremely difficult, transactions are almost non-existent. Lack of money needed to maintain quality of life can have long-term negative consequences.

2. Death by starvation: If the quarantine extends to an entire city or beyond a small, easily managed area, people who were not prepared and did not have an adequate supply of food will starve despite the best efforts of the government to feed them.

3. Death due to lack of treatment for physical ailments: Everything from going to the hospital for medical care to obtaining the necessary prescription from the pharmacy stops because people cannot leave their homes. In the few cases where people are hospitalized, they must be transported in an isolated environment to protect the population from infection. Those who cannot be transported due to the limited capacity of the system die in line.

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4. Death due to untreated mental health problems: Lack of access to these resources can lead to suffering and, in some cases, suicide.

5. Death as a result of lockdown: This includes both accidental and deliberate use of force to maintain lockdown, as well as cases of suicide by security forces, which we commonly refer to as “cop deaths.”

6. Mortality associated with stopping the spread of the virus. Think of a disease with a 50% fatality rate that spreads as fast as Omicron. People who violate the quarantine rules are not able to ensure public safety. It is difficult to do this from a distance without harming them, that is, people can be shot – we see this in films about pandemics.

True lockdown is a very aggressive dictatorial strategy that requires strict enforcement of the law by the police and military.

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That is why in Canada and other democracies it is impossible to do without massive cultural shifts.

People living in democracies do not respect or fear government enough to agree to true isolation.

Of course, doing so now that vaccines and treatments are widely available would be insane.

COVID-19 is now at the endemic stage.

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Testing people to inform strategies to contain it has become ineffective because the data contains too many confounding variables. People are not tested for a variety of reasons, ranging from the absence of symptoms to the unavailability of definitive tests.

Wastewater testing is the best way to assess the spread of a virus when it is in its endemic stage.

This does not mean that people should not get tested if they have access to it and continue with basic public health measures.

Get vaccinated, wash your hands often, wear a mask, limit social contact.

Available information from public health authorities or your own doctor will accurately inform you of potential risks.

When we get the smallpox virus with no reasonable expectation of a vaccine or cure, then we can start talking about true isolation.

— Alex Vezina is the CEO of Prepared Canada Corp. and teaches disaster and emergency management at York University. He can be contacted at

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