How to squash a pandemic: Are governments going too far or are their methods justified?

On November 11th 2022, Quebec Premier Francois Legault showed his province and our country he’d had enough. With the omicron virus spreading rapidly throughout the province, he reinstated lockdown protocols and curfews to try and curb the spread of this virus that is heading into a third year of squeezing the world in it’s tight grip. Sure, there were protests and those who broke curfew were fined or thrown in jail, but he held firm and didn’t relax any of the measures he’d put in — and he’d reinstated the tighter restrictions on New Year’s Eve to boot. Having lived in Montreal for five years, I know how much that hurt because Quebeccers know how to party, after all they embody joie de vivre.

Then, Premier Legault had another idea, no doubt arising from the reality that patients in the hospitals’ ICU’s and patients who died of Covid 19, were mostly unvaccinated, often asking for the vaccine moments before being intubated. To save lives, Legault decided that all Quebeccers who wanted to shop at liquor stores, beer stores or marijuana shops must have proof of vaccination. Vaccination rates have quadrupled since the requirement was put in place. Go figure.

And if you think that was a lot for citizens to bear, Legault announced that his government is currently working on a “health-care contribution” (a no-vax tax) that will be placed on all adult Quebec residents who refuse to get vaccinated for non-medical reasons. Not surprisingly, some citizens especially the anti-vaxers are outraged, infringement of human rights etc. but for those who have no problem getting vaccinated, well, let’s be real, they’ve thought about it and spoken about it amongst themselves. Many people in favour of vaccination were outraged when they learned the hospital care cost of Covid 19 to the taxpayer. According to a CBC news report based on data from the Canadian Institute for Health Information (CIHI), a COVID-19 patient needing intensive care in Canada is estimated at more than $50,000, compared with aproximately $8,400 for a patient suffering from a heart attack. The average hospital stay for a COVID-19 patient in Canada is about 15 days which is twice as long as as a patient suffering from pneumonia whose treatment cost is about $8,000. Severely ill COVID-19 patients are admitted to the ICU and are placed on ventilators and one out of every five dies in intensive care. According to CTV News, today in Canada (January12th 2022) 1000 people were hospitalized with Covid 19 while another 124 died . 13 percent of Canadias are unvaccinated and they make up 79 percent of the Covid 19 patients admitted to the ICU. We are losing the battle against this virus and people who work in health care are losing interest in their job and they are burning out and walking out for good. Some pro-vaxers say they are tired of the skeptics and that they are tired of having to undergo the same restrictions as those who have chosen to be unvaccinated. Everyone is pandemic weary. Everyone’s had enough … just like Premier Legault.

Roughly 10 per cent of adult Quebecers are unvaccinated and they represent about half of all patients in intensive care. With over 2,700 total hospitalizations in La Belle Province, with an increase of approximately 180 patients per day and over 200 people in intensive care and 62 deaths the day before the no vax tax announcement, are we really surprised the Legault government came down heavy handed? His bold actions and suggestions have made some other Premiers in the country, stroke their chins while other’s who are more conservative, or unwilling to fall through the cracking political ice beneath them as elections approach, have balked at Legault’s bravado. The Prime Minister, however, didn’t praise Quebec’s latest proposals but he didn’t shoot them down either, because like all of us, he’s mentally through with this pandemic and it’s variants and the toll it has taken on health care, ecomomics, employment, education and mental health.

Whether or not you agree with the Quebec Premier’s ideas, it’s hard not to admire a politician who has the gumption to make bold decisions and try and do something to curb the spread of Covid 19. Leaders are chosen to lead and in our society, we can vote them out later if we’ve disliked what they’ve done. Legault, like all leaders were caught off guard by this pandemic and as the world hemmorhages into a third year of covid misery, he’s trying to get to the end of it and not all citizens are on board. This pandemic has revealed in this era of widespread mis-information, conspiracy theory, skepticism and naivete, leadership has become tremendously challenging. The mis-trust of government, science and media is endangering society at large and during this pandemic it has led to the crippling of health care systems worldwide. And, so, when it comes to Legault’s ideas, and countries like Austria and Greece with fines in place for those unwilling to be vaccinated we ask ourselves, are brash government moves a step too far or are they justified?