Skip to main content
The Globe and Mail
Support Quality Journalism
The Globe and Mail
First Access to Latest
Investment News
Collection of curated
e-books and guides
Inform your decisions via
Globe Investor Tools
per week
for first 24 weeks

Enjoy unlimited digital access
Enjoy Unlimited Digital Access
Get full access to
Just $1.99 per week for the first 24 weeks
Just $1.99 per week for the first 24 weeks
var select={root:".js-sub-pencil",control:".js-sub-pencil-control",open:"o-sub-pencil--open",closed:"o-sub-pencil--closed"},dom={},allowExpand=!0;function pencilInit(o){var e=arguments.length>1&&void 0!==arguments[1]&&arguments[1];select.root=o,dom.root=document.querySelector(select.root),dom.root&&(dom.control=document.querySelector(select.control),dom.control.addEventListener("click",onToggleClicked),setPanelState(e),window.addEventListener("scroll",onWindowScroll),dom.root.removeAttribute("hidden"))}function isPanelOpen(){return dom.root.classList.contains(}function setPanelState(o){dom.root.classList[o?"add":"remove"](,dom.root.classList[o?"remove":"add"](select.closed),dom.control.setAttribute("aria-expanded",o)}function onToggleClicked(){var l=!isPanelOpen();setPanelState(l)}function onWindowScroll(){window.requestAnimationFrame(function() {var l=isPanelOpen(),n=0===(document.body.scrollTop||document.documentElement.scrollTop);n||l||!allowExpand?n&&l&&(allowExpand=!0,setPanelState(!1)):(allowExpand=!1,setPanelState(!0))});}pencilInit(".js-sub-pencil",!1); // via darwin-bg var slideIndex = 0; carousel(); function carousel() { var i; var x = document.getElementsByClassName("subs_valueprop"); for (i = 0; i < x.length; i++) { x[i].style.display = "none"; } slideIndex++; if (slideIndex> x.length) { slideIndex = 1; } x[slideIndex - 1].style.display = "block"; setTimeout(carousel, 2500); }
Coronavirus information
Coronavirus information
The Zero Canada Project provides resources to help you make the most of staying home.
Visit the hub

Robert Greenhill is executive chairman of Global Canada and former managing director of the World Economic Forum. These are his personal views.

Canada, and the world, faces a global pandemic on a scale that has not been seen since the Spanish flu epidemic of a century ago. In the last week alone, tens of thousands of people have been infected in over 100 countries, thousands of lives have been lost, trillions of dollars have evaporated in the stock markets and time-honoured concepts of international co-operation have been thrown out the window as nations around the world close their borders and block the export of medical products. A week has become an eternity.

Layoffs, salary, EI and more: Your coronavirus and employment questions answered

The tragedy of the Spanish influenza was in the multitude of mistakes made during its global rampage over 15 months in 1918 and 1919. Slow reactions and dishonest communications (due to wartime censorship) translated into countless additional lives lost. The final death toll is put at somewhere between 50 million and 100 million.

Story continues below advertisement

The tragedy with the coronavirus today isn’t dishonesty. It is incrementalism. Italy, France, Switzerland, Spain, Norway, modern sophisticated polities with high-quality health-care systems, are all reeling. In each of these places, the number of COVID-19 cases as a share of population has already exceeded China’s. The Italian health-care system, with more than 30,000 confirmed cases, is completely overwhelmed. Germany, Britain and the Netherlands are not far behind. Confirmed COVID-19 cases in these countries are doubling every 3 days.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau speaks about Canada's response to the COVID-19 virus in Ottawa on March 17, 2020.

Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press

There’s a simple explanation for the dire straits they find themselves in – they missed what a South Korean official has called “The Golden Hour,” the narrow window in which social distancing can still bend the trajectory of the contagion. Canada now must learn from those who are mere weeks ahead of us. Every day of hesitation or misplaced desire for nailing down the details will result in thousands more infected. Thus is the unforgiving nature of a pandemic.

At present, no countries outside China have proven they can stop COVID-19. South Korea, Singapore, possibly Taiwan have shown progress, although even their success is uncertain. They remain outliers because they moved quickly and decisively.

Canada has just a few days to join this exclusive group of democratic outliers. The question is not whether we will have to implement comprehensive tough restrictions like those belatedly introduced in Europe. The question is whether we will take the risk of putting in place these difficult, disruptive but necessary measures quickly enough. Remember, with a three-day doubling rate, a decision on Tuesday this week is 100 per cent more impactful than one on Friday. In dealing with pandemics, every day, every hour translates into lives lost or lives saved.

Think back a week to how inconceivable it seemed to cancel events or ban travel. Today, these measures seem simply prudent. The cost of going too slow is an almost certain overwhelming of our health system, even greater and longer-lasting economic disruption and, crucially, many thousands of avoidable deaths for Canadians.

Given the critical situation we face, the lower-risk route is to go very far, very fast.

Dr. Theresa Tam, the chief public health officer, says the time is now for all Canadians to work together to slow the spread of COVID-19. She is urging everyone to avoid all public gatherings of 50 people or more and stay home when possible to delay transmission of the novel coronavirus and protect the most vulnerable. The Canadian Press

Over the last several days, Canadian governments have made a number of important announcements. These are absolutely essential and require our full and active support. Yet they, and we, need to do more.

Story continues below advertisement

To optimize our chances, we need to do three things by Friday:

  1. Governments this week should implement a comprehensive, consistent coast-to-coast-to-coast lockdown of all but essential retail businesses, services and gatherings for the next four weeks. People should not be encouraged to stay at home, they should be required to.
  2. Everyone reading this piece must rigorously implement the actions that will break the chain of COVID-19 transmission while strengthening the bonds that hold us together as a community: physical distancing; staying at home; self-isolating if sick or returning from abroad; helping others and “caremongering” (online groups that share and organize community resources).
  3. Perhaps most importantly now, we must quickly and effectively engage the millions of Canadians who are not reading this piece, did not listen to the Prime Minister’s address, do not scan the WHO website for daily updates. We need to ensure that all Canadians are informed, convinced and doing the right things right away. If this is a war, we need to carpet-bomb with communications. Governments can set the message. It is the influencers, the creative industry and communications experts that can ensure the message is transmitted in ways that all Canadians understand and accept. Corporate Canada, with its tremendous communication capabilities, has a key role to play in ensuring all 38 million Canadians are on board by the end of this week. We need to be creative and we need to be fast.

When you know the ending of a novel, reading each chapter does not change the outcome. We know where we need to go to stop COVID-19. Let’s get there now.

Sign up for the Coronavirus Update newsletter to read the day’s essential coronavirus news, features and explainers written by Globe reporters.

In the interests of public health and safety, our coronavirus news articles are free for anyone to access. However, The Globe depends on subscription revenue to support our journalism. If you are able, please subscribe to If you are already a subscriber, thank you for your support.

Your subscription helps The Globe and Mail provide readers with critical news at a critical time. Thank you for your continued support. We also hope you will share important coronavirus news articles with your friends and family. In the interest of public health and safety, all our coronavirus news articles are free for anyone to access.

Related topics

Report an error
Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff.

We aim to create a safe and valuable space for discussion and debate. That means:

  • Treat others as you wish to be treated
  • Criticize ideas, not people
  • Stay on topic
  • Avoid the use of toxic and offensive language
  • Flag bad behaviour

Comments that violate our community guidelines will be removed.

Read our community guidelines here

Discussion loading ...

To view this site properly, enable cookies in your browser. Read our privacy policy to learn more.
How to enable cookies