Canada is full of gritty coronavirus news.
The furthest north Canadian territory of Nunavut lost its status as the last place in Canada to be free of Covid-19. Toronto is rolling back its reopening, imposing the longest and strictest closings the province has seen since the first wave of the pandemic. And the federal government said Friday that the country is on track to 60,000 new cases per day by the end of the year if Canadians don’t cut back on each other and provinces apply more restrictions, roughly 5.5 times the current level Rate corresponds.
Only Atlantic Canada, isolated from the rest of the country and the world by travel restrictions, has escaped the trend.
Some doctors and scientists say that in order to deal with the crisis, Canada should aim not only to contain the spread of the virus, but to completely eradicate new infections. This idea is known on social media as #COVIDzero and is gaining momentum around the world.
The big question is how aggressive should countries get? Australia provides an example.
Two of my colleagues in Australia, Yan Zhuang and Damien Cave, watched Melbourne’s 111-day hibernation. Cases were eliminated in the city of five million people, but the measures went way beyond anything Canada has seen to date, including tough curfews and strict travel restrictions.
My colleagues described “a dizzying and lonely experience that many in Melbourne have described as an emotional roller coaster ride with economic, educational and mental health implications that will continue.”
I spoke to Dr. Irfan Dhalla, an associate professor at the University of Toronto’s Department of Health Policy, Management and Evaluation, on Covid-Zero, an idea he brought up in a Globe and Mail in May.
He told me that he was not proposing to copy Australia’s strict lockdown and that he supported keeping Canada’s schools open. Instead, he said, “We should see Covid-Zero as a rally for a better approach.”
Dr. Dhalla said several Asian countries, especially Korea, could serve as templates, but that “the most compelling example” is the four provinces of Atlantic Canada. Their main difference: the decision to create a travel bubble. Most of the outsiders who enter need to be quarantined.
Data from the New York Times on Friday showed that Newfoundland and Nova Scotia had an average of just 0.3 cases per 100,000 people over the past week, New Brunswick had 0.7 cases, and Prince Edward Island had no cases at all.