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In other news
Re British Government Extends Lockdown Restrictions For at Least Three More Weeks (April 17): Lockdowns in response to COVID-19 not only have dire economic consequences, but also serious health consequences for those suffering from other diseases.
In the week ending April 3, there were 6,000 more deaths in England and Wales than recorded in average weeks in previous years. Only half of these were because of COVID-19. Thus closure of hospitals and medical clinics for all but emergencies is taking a heavy toll on many patients. In addition, rates of mental health disorders and suicide attempts will likely increase, because of financial distress.
In view of the above, I am very concerned about the extension of Ontario’s lockdown, particularly as the rate of serious COVID-19 infections seems to be declining. I have not heard any official address the predictable harm that will accrue to those with other medical disorders. Governments should urgently address access to medical care, before the collateral damage from COVID-19 takes too heavy a toll.
Douglas Bradley MD, FRCPC, head of respiratory medicine, University of Toronto
A light to history
Re Why We No Longer Scoff At Scrubbing (Opinion, April 11): Contributor Katherine Ashenburg is fine on the old history. However, things changed, radically, in the mid-19th century.
Florence Nightingale’s Notes on Nursing (1860) called for frequent handwashing (and your face, too, when possible). She noted the importance of hot water and soap. She invited people to do an experiment: “Compare the dirtiness of the water in which you have washed when it is cold without soap, cold with soap, hot with soap. You will find the first has hardly removed any dirt at all, the second a little more, the third a great deal more.” There is good reason for the National Health Service to name its seven temporary hospitals for COVID-19 patients in England and Wales “NHS Nightingale Hospitals.”
While waiting for a vaccine that works on COVID-19, we could use her “outcomes research” to ascertain what methods, from serious lockdowns to physical distancing, get the best results.
Lynn McDonald CM, PhD, LLD (hon), director, The Collected Works of Florence Nightingale; Toronto
Re Pandemic Accelerates Race Against Seasons For Farmers, Foreign Labour (April 15): Perhaps farmers should reconsider their reluctance to use locals as a replacement for foreign workers who are unable to enter the country during the pandemic.
Elsewhere, relatives are being asked to step in as caregivers with the crisis in long-term care centres. Doctors have been asked to upgrade their skills to work in intensive care units, despite some of them having not done so for years. They will need to learn quickly. Perhaps there are locals who would be willing to learn equally quickly to help save our food supply despite the low wage and hard work. A government incentive might also help.
Rajin Mehta Toronto
We are reminded that in Ontario alone, 20,000 foreign agricultural workers are needed soon. Only a trickle have arrived, and the province’s vegetable seeding, greenhouses, beehives and fruit trees cannot wait much long. Meanwhile, thousands of local allotment plots lie fallow, shut down by municipal and then provincial COVID-19 edicts. I hope Ontario will follow the B.C. example and declare allotments an essential service.
Unlike those unplanted Ontario farm fields, each plot does have an agricultural worker: a permit holder who has signed a contract, paid the city nearly $100, has key in hand and is anxious to work. A plot can feed four. Toronto has close to 2,000 allotments, grouped in gardens that are securely fenced, gated, locked.
Allotments could also provide open space for much greater physical distancing than is possible in any park, street or beach. The government should trust these gardeners to behave COVID-appropriately. After all, who would want to forfeit a garden so anxiously waited for?
Ila Bossons Toronto
The other two
Re The UN’s Relative Silence Speaks Volumes About The U.S.' Failure To Lead (April 14): Contributor Jutta Brunnée points out that the United Nations Security Council has been silent on a global response to the COVID-19 pandemic. But this does not mean that the UN has not been active.
Two UN agencies are leading the global pandemic response: The World Health Organization has provided health data and research, and Unicef – with the world’s largest humanitarian warehouse – has been providing supplies to front-line health workers, offering alternative education options for children, developing child protection strategies and working with governments and the private sector to prepare African countries for the pandemic.
We should remember that the UN is much more than the Security Council. It is also thousands of aid workers – doctors, nurses, logisticians and more – and their supporters who lead the fight against the pandemic, in every corner of the world, and strive to build a better future for every child.
David Morley CM, president and CEO, Unicef Canada; Toronto
Re COVID-19 Has Changed The Way We Read (Arts & Pursuits, April 11): As an avid reader, I too have been looking for literature that means “both reading and not reading about [COVID-19],” as contributor Randy Boyagoda describes. I found solace in Frances Itani’s novel Deafening, which centres on a family in Deseronto, Ont., during the early 1900s. Described in Ms. Itani’s sharp, clear prose, the characters experience the First World War and Spanish Flu through a distinctly Canadian lens.
I was looking for words that would illustrate the kind of paradigm shift we’re going through now, as well as the uncertainty. I was also looking for the comfort of remembering that those particular crises passed, as will this one. I wasn’t disappointed. Thanks to Frances Itani.
Michelle Tracy Ottawa
What are the odds?
Re NHL Keeping All Options Open For Resuming Season, Bettman Says (Sports, April 14): One would have to be a betting man to believe in Gary Bettman and the possibility of hockey returning soon. Face-off circles would have to be redrawn to respect physical distancing. Body checking would net five minutes in the penalty box, and possibly six months in the slammer. Goalie masks would have to be recovered from medical wards.
Here, I’m used to being without hockey this time of year. If I start feeling feverish for sticks and blades, there’s a local television station which plays only winning Habs games. Sometimes, it’s nice to know how it all ends.
Howard Greenfield Montreal
In other news
Re Notre Dame, One Year After Fire (April 16): This is the best news we have seen in a long time: the front page of The Globe and Mail featuring an article unrelated to the pandemic. Things are starting to come back to normal.
Thierry Faure Ottawa
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