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A woman walks her dog past a closed Starbucks in downtown Toronto on March 24, 2020.

GEOFF ROBINS/AFP/Getty Images

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Long-term effects

Re Families Cope With Separation From Loved Ones Caused By Visitor Bans At Long-term Care Homes (March 23): I believe there are two additional concerns for families with loved ones in long-term care homes. First, regardless of the effectiveness of the care being provided, many family members must still be advocates for their loved ones, particularly for residents who cannot communicate well (such as those with dementia). Such advocacy is made much more difficult by not being able to visit.

Moreover, restricting visits does not slow down the inevitable progress of dementia. With no clear end in sight yet for this pandemic, some families are faced with the grief-inducing fear that, because of the loss of regular contact, their loved ones may no longer recognize them once the visitor ban is lifted.

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Áine Humble PhD, family studies and gerontology, Mount Saint Vincent University; Halifax

Foreign affairs

Re More Than A Million People Returned To Canada In A Week Amid Coronavirus Concerns (Online, March 23): When the novel coronavirus pandemic struck, I, like so many others, found myself marooned in a distant land. I was in Bududa, Uganda, with my friend and fellow Canadian Sheila Havard. We agreed that the time had come to head home (born in Montreal, I now live in the United States).

Using Bududa’s intermittent cellphone service, we called Sheila’s travel agent, Tom Gehrels of Adventure Coordinators in Toronto. By e-mail, he let us know that Brussels Airlines was cancelling all flights out of Africa on March 21, and that he had booked her out ahead of that date.

She asked, could he also help her friend? Miraculously, Tom found me a flight, too. Now I’m safely home and feeling immensely grateful for his random act of kindness. He wouldn’t even accept a payment.

“In times like this,” Tom said, “we all need to do our bit.”

Barbara Birks Wybar Philadelphia


As a Canadian who is currently outside the country, I wanted to share an alternate point of view from what I’m seeing in much of the national media. Personally, given the current state of things, I feel much safer here in Vietnam.

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For months now, I’ve observed this country keeping the pandemic under control. With a little more than 130 reported cases in a country of more than 95 million people that’s smaller than Newfoundland and Labrador, I’ve been shocked to see things escalate so quickly back home.

Obviously, I feel sorry for those who are stranded away from home and wishing to get back, but I’d love for folks to know that the rest of the world isn’t all danger and martial law. In some cases, it’s looking much better than my alternative.

Ryan Patey Ho Chi Minh City

Bottom lines

Re Businesses Plead For Relief As Pandemic Halts Cash Flows (Report on Business, March 24): I own a brewery with a tap room and kitchen that employs 26 full-time folks. I closed the kitchen and bars on March 15 to encourage social distancing, leaving only retail. Revenue is down 85 to 90 per cent.

My objective is to support my team through this challenging time and I have retained the entire group, though I have to reflect the financial reality – layoffs are inevitable without meaningful government support.

I find the federal government’s 10-per-cent wage subsidy well-intentioned but wholly insufficient. I do not see additional changes to employment insurance eligibility helping to forestall job losses in the first place.

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The British government announced an 80-per-cent wage subsidy that will more immediately save jobs and help stabilize the economy, creating conditions for a faster recovery. It’s an example that Canada should follow.

Without more meaningful intervention, job losses in the private sector could be staggering, and damage to the economy could be more long lasting, or even permanent.

Dave Longbottom Owner, Flora Hall Brewing; Ottawa


Isn’t it interesting to see how quickly those free enterprisers who typically scorn big government, deficits and taxes look to be bailed out by that same government which they often say should be run like a business.

Down the road, when the tax bill comes in, let’s hope the haves pay their share willingly and remember what it’s like to be a have-not.

Angela Shaw London, Ont.

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Re Layoffs, Salary, EI And More: Your Coronavirus And Employment Questions Answered (Online, March 24): As the impact of this pandemic begins to seep in, roughly 1.2 million Canadians (about 7 per cent of the work force) who have been employed in the food-service industry are coming to grips with not only indefinite unemployment, but also the realization that the current system of employment insurance seems overwhelmingly stacked against them. I know this because I am one of them.

In Ontario (like much of the country), gratuities can account for as much as 50 to 60 per cent of a food-service worker’s income, so most earn a reduced minimum wage of $12.20 an hour. Although they are obligated by the Canada Revenue Agency to claim and pay taxes on tips, only base wage is considered when calculating EI eligibility. Where it would pay standard workers 55 per cent of their wage, many in food service actually receive closer to 25 per cent or less. My support payments will be less than $150 a week.

This is creating a scenario where many Canadians, like me, will be forced to choose between rent and food if the government doesn’t address a system that does not work for everyone.

Kyle McCrea Toronto

Words with friends

Re ‘Social Distancing’? That’s A Misnomer (March 24): Contributor Margaret Eaton makes a good point that social distancing is really physical distancing. But the principle is still social because it involves social spaces. The two terms reflect different aspects of the same thing.

This reminds me of the change from unemployment insurance to employment insurance. It’s both insurance against unemployment and insurance for employment. I think the change was unnecessary. What would we change fire insurance to?

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English has enough oddities without considering some that aren’t really odd.

Paul Rapoport Ancaster, Ont.

The American way?

Re Trump Steps Back From Social Distancing (March 24): In light of U.S. President Donald Trump’s desire to return to normal as soon as possible, even while the coronavirus pandemic continues to grow, might one suggest a useful change to the U.S. Declaration of Independence to include the words, “life, liberty and the pursuit of money?”

A. S. Brown Kingston


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