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A couple wearing protective face masks walk past the boarded up shops along Robson Street in downtown Vancouver, May 4, 2020.


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Hand in hand

Re To End The Recession, Beat The Virus (Editorial, May 8): I believe The Globe is right that public health is key to curing our present economic ills. Consumers won’t spend, lenders won’t lend and workers won’t work without confidence they can do so safely, and that means testing, tracing, screening, learning and applying lessons to stop this virus.

But it wasn’t a drug that stopped cholera. Rather, it was fixing the water supply that bred it and spread it. A system based on cures is not a health system, and it doesn’t take an economist to know that an ounce of prevention really is worth pounds of cure. We may not yet know the exact origins of COVID-19, but we do know its breeding conditions: crowded living and working conditions, low wages that demand multiple jobs and working while ill, workplace regulations that aren’t enforced, private ownership without public oversight.

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A better health system should also mean a fairer economic system. There is more than one cure needed here. Our health and economic systems should indeed work together.

James Russell Ottawa

Bring them home?

Re Ontario Will Review Long-term Care System (May 8): Five years ago, my father, at 100, collapsed on his bathroom floor. He had lived alone for a decade, following his wife’s stroke, with little professional help. In hospital, it was explained that they could keep him, or he could go home with 24-hour care – at half the cost to the health service.

At home, sharing copious glasses of sherry with well-wishers, he slipped away peacefully a few weeks later. His caregivers were local seniors who had retrained as personal support workers through a government initiative. I should mention that this was in rural Australia.

Here, it is often reported that far too many hospital beds are occupied by seniors at vast expense, and long-term care homes are overcrowded and understaffed. Would so many seniors and caregivers have become infected or died if they had been cared for at home in Ontario? Surely now is the time to rethink the whole system.

Can we learn from the Australians? My time is coming and I don’t like what I see.

Elisabeth Muir Toronto

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Who not to blame

Re Who’s To Blame? (Letters, May 4): A letter writer insists that Canada’s Chief Public Health Officer, Theresa Tam, “should be held accountable” for “the country’s shocking lack of preparedness." That would be the same Dr. Tam who, in the wake of the 2003 SARS outbreak, co-authored a 2006 report warning about the likelihood of a future pandemic and the need for preparations. Coincidentally, 2006 saw the election of Stephen Harper as prime minister. Under his leadership, science and the well-being of the populace were frequently set aside in favour of stern economic and social policy.

Obviously, Mr. Harper should not be held personally responsible for the failure of authorities to maintain the high levels of emergency preparedness that had begun post-SARS, but nor should Dr. Tam.

Glenn Allen Rockingham, Ont.

At your own risk

Re Don’t Declare Pandemic Victory Yet (Editorial, May 2): When the pandemic first set in, society was quick to accept what was perceived as an ethical trade-off of personal freedom for health and safety. With little resistance, governments around the globe closed businesses, as well as removed rights to freedom of assembly and free movement.

We accepted these trade-offs largely because we were told they would last only a matter of weeks. But governments should have known these regulations would be unsustainable for an elongated period. We have already witnessed the devastating effects of these restrictions on the economy, and as unemployment continues to rise, so too does food insecurity, career uncertainty, poverty and despair.

It should be time to allow people to exercise their human rights, and be given the freedom to choose what risks they want to take in everyday life.

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Karis Saplys Oakville, Ont.

Learning abroad

Re Learning From Lagos: In Nigeria, Practice Makes Pandemic Proficiency (Opinion, May 2): Contributor Doug Saunders presents an eloquent commentary on the condescension we in the West often have when evaluating the developing world.

I spend a lot of time in Uganda, and the experience of epidemics is high there, too. They are used to dealing with cholera, Marburg, Ebola, nodding disease and a host of others. So the Ugandan government acted swiftly and decisively to COVID-19, including quarantining visitors and shutting public transport and private-vehicle use.

The main problem now in Kampala and Nairobi, which my friends tell me about, is hunger caused by lack of day wages. Many people live on what they get paid each day. If they don’t work, their family goes hungry. There is plenty of food, but they can’t afford it. But COVID-19 seems under control.

Tony Woodruff African program director, Water School Canada; Burnaby, B.C.

Lagos “is home to between 14 and 21 million people – nobody seems to know for sure." Nevertheless, the government, which doesn’t know the population of its largest city, seems to know it has kept the pandemic under control and will ease restrictions.

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Nigeria has thus far done 20,000-plus tests in a population of nearly 200 million, one of the lowest rates of testing in the world. It seems impossible for Nigerian authorities to know much of anything about the extent of the pandemic in their country. How could this be interpreted as “pandemic proficiency?”

Dieter Neumann Kemble, Ont.

Remote chance

Re Step By Step: Bringing Workers Back To Skyscrapers (Report on Business, May 2): There is strong evidence that remote workers can be more productive, satisfied (with less commuting and more sleep, among other factors) and engaged than office-bound colleagues. Where feasible, remote work should remain an option for at least some of the work week. This seems especially relevant for those who are not ready or comfortable returning to the office, or who have challenges such as finding child care.

The work-from-home experiment looks to have proven successful around the world. It’s time businesses made working remotely a permanent option for employees.

Raj Cheema Brampton

Holes in one

Re Dig Your Own Hole (Letters, May 4): A letter writer from Calgary, responding to the growing deficit, reminds Justin Trudeau that a smart person digging a big hole brings equipment along to climb out afterward. I would remind him that, according to his Calgary cohorts, a smarter person digs thousands of deep holes, takes out what is of value, then leaves the mess for Mr. Trudeau to clean up.

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Rob Graham Claremont, Ont.

Letters to the Editor should be exclusive to The Globe and Mail. Include your name, address and daytime phone number. Try to keep letters to fewer than 150 words. Letters may be edited for length and clarity. To submit a letter by e-mail, click here:

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