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JIM VIBERT: How long will the COVID-19 shutdowns last? ‘We don’t know’

- Reuters

How long will it last?

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Tuesday that he’s asked that question every day, and his answer is the only one available to him. “We don’t know, yet.”

The shutdown — with some minor, quintessentially Canadian variations from province-to-province — is in its second full week. Except for food, medicine and a few other essentials, retail outlets are shuttered.

Almost every Canadian is being asked to stay home, other than short, purposeful trips to replenish necessary supplies. An estimated one million Canadians have become unemployed since the coronavirus crisis took hold here. The economy has ground to a virtual halt.

So, the question, “how long will it last?” is understandable, even if we know it is unanswerable.

Our political leaders and public health experts across the country tell us that Canada is still “at the front end” of this thing and a timespan of eight-to-10 weeks has been mentioned more than once.

If you’re looking for a template, consider that Chinese authorities announced this week that they expect to start easing restrictions on the city of Wuhan beginning April 8.

Wuhan is the central Chinese city of 11 million where the coronavirus is believed to have originated. It was the global epicentre of the infection during its earliest days.

The city was locked down — and people there faced more severe limits than anything we’ve seen yet in Canada – on Jan. 23. So, if the restrictions start being lifted, as planned, the lockdown of Wuhan will have lasted 11 weeks.

But while the easing of restrictions where the virus first got a foothold is the good news, there’s still more bad.

Monday, the World Health Organization offered the disheartening word that the global spread of the virus continues to accelerate. It took 67 days from the first reported case to reach the first 100,000 cases, 11 days for the second 100,000 cases and just four days for the third 100,000 cases.

Tuesday, Prime Minister Trudeau also said the duration of the crisis in Canada will be determined by the choices we make now.

“If you want things to get back to normal, stay home,” Trudeau said and added that if the restrictions now in place across the country prove insufficient in slowing the spread of the virus, more restrictions will be coming.

He anticipates the current measures will be in place for many more weeks and normal activity will only begin to return when it is safe to do so.

Canadians who are bristling under the still-light touch of government measures – or worse, those who are ignoring public health directions and directives – need to hear from people in places ravaged by COVID-19.

A relative who’s worked in Italy and has many friends there, received these messages:

“It’s horrible here … People didn’t believe the danger at first and that’s what got us into the situation we’re now in. But the worst part is seeing other countries make the same mistakes we made.”

“There are army trucks coming in to take away corpses because there aren’t enough crematoriums. It shouldn’t take this happening to you to make you stay at home.”

“Italians are warm and caring and this (the lockdown now in effect) is a huge undertaking for us, but it’s indispensable. The (Italian) government’s messages signifies this: ‘keep your distance today so that you can embrace each other tomorrow.’”

The isolation, the personal-distancing and the other measures directed by Canadian public health officials are designed and intended to save Canadians from sharing a fate similar to that of the Italians.

And, as the above missives suggest, if Italians could go back and do it over, they’d heed those warnings.

How long will it last? As long as it takes.

In the meantime, we have one option. That’s to do what we are told by public health officials. We can trust them because they’re only trying to save us from the worst.

Rather than looking for the end, most of us need to take this one day at a time and do whatever we can every one of those days to help keep both ourselves and our neighbours healthy.

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1 being least likely, and 10 being most likely

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