Green Party MP Elizabeth May made a plea in the House of Commons for caution and common sense in dealing with COVID-19. Ms. May drew my attention to a December article by Tyee contributing editor Andrew Nikiforuk.
Because politicians and senior health officials are surrendering to the virus, Nikiforuk’s article is worth revisiting. His major points:
Leaders embraced four big myths.
- Myth 1: Vaccines will get us out of this.
- Myth 2: Pandemics are unpredictable and have nothing to do with policy or human behaviour.
- Myth 3: We can live with this virus, and it will become milder over time.
- Myth 4: COVID is just a flu-like virus.
- They moaned that their fatigued citizens couldn’t follow any more restrictions to save lives from death or long COVID.
- They have wholeheartedly embraced fatalism as acceptable public health policy.
- A highly transmissible virus is something to be feared and respected.
- Health-care workers will get smashed again by exponential hospitalizations and deaths.
- Omicron is NOT the worst the pandemic can still throw at us.
- COVID, the seventh coronavirus to plague humans, “is capable of far more changes and far more variation than most ever thought possible and it will keep coming back to haunt us again and again.”
- The virus just doesn’t attack individuals but society as a whole.
Provincial health officials, including Minister of Health Adrian Dix, cling to the hope that COVID-19 is spread primarily by large respiratory droplets that fall quickly to the floor. This led to advice that a few feet of human separation, handwashing, surface wipes and plastic dividers were effective protections from the virus.
Back in 2020, the New York Times reported that in an open letter, 239 scientists in 32 countries have outlined the evidence showing that smaller particles can infect people. The paper presenting the scientists’ views was published by Oxford University Press for the Infectious Diseases Society of America. The experts were clear:
We appeal to the medical community and to the relevant national and international bodies to recognize the potential for airborne spread of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19)…
Studies by the signatories and other scientists have demonstrated beyond any reasonable doubt that viruses are released during exhalation, talking, and coughing in microdroplets small enough to remain aloft in air and pose a risk of exposure at distances beyond 1–2 m from an infected individual. For example, at typical indoor air velocities, a 5-μm droplet will travel tens of meters, much greater than the scale of a typical room…
As in other jurisdictions with greater concern for economics than for citizen health, the BC government resists indisputable science of airborne transmission. The reasons they refuse to recognize science are financial and political.
Easing measures to restrain the spread of disease and telling the province to live with the virus is dangerous, particularly at a time the death toll in BC is at its worst and rising.
The extensive measures SARS-CoV-2 deploys to counter innate immunity are worth detailed study. They are attractive targets for antiviral drugs. Inhibit one or more of these proteins, and we tip the balance of innate immune suppression in our favor, limiting prolific replication early on and thereby reducing transmission. Drugs that inhibit viral countermeasures may also help those with limited innate immune function, including the elderly, control infection early on...
Looking forward, I am aware of dozens of antiviral drugs that are in early stages of either preclinical or early clinical trials. I am certain that over the next two years, we will have a broad array of pharmacologically active drugs safe enough to be used in combination. My vision is they will be safe enough to be preventives for those exposed and treatments for those infected.
Those who study the biology of viruses and viral diseases warn that climate change and globalization exacerbate transmission of viral diseases. Business-first politicians, who usually are de facto climate change deniers, don’t want to hear this message:
Many emerging infectious diseases come from animals and can be transmitted to people directly or through vectors, such as mosquitoes or ticks. The planet’s population growth, urbanization, the globalization of travel and commerce and climate change enhances contact with new environments, climates and new vectors of diseases. “Now, more than ever, we must be reactive to give quick responses to epidemic outbreaks,” said Marion Koopmans, DVM, PhD, head of the department of virosciences of Erasmus MC in Rotterdam…
Leaders guided by business loyalties, myths, and unfounded expectations will not support scientific resources needed for real solutions. Unfortunately, the above description fits the people governing western Canadian provinces.