Friday, July 30, 2021

The rising costs of Canada's lockdowns

 What 16 months of COVID lockdowns have cost us | National Post - Tristin Hopper:

July 28, 2021 -"Canada’s pandemic response, particularly in Ontario, has been defined by strict lockdowns — often at a level of severity well beyond anything seen in the rest of the developed world. It will take years to fully assess the societal costs of social distancing, from learning loss in schools to a rise in famine conditions caused by disruptions to global trade. Below is a rough accounting of the price Canada has paid thus far.

"In March 2020 ... the country’s federal debt stood at $721.4 billion. Only one year later, the Department of Finance was pegging the debt load at $1.2 trillion.... And that’s just federal spending. COVID-19 has also blown out the debt of every other conceivable public institution in the country. In the three post-pandemic years, Ontario is set to run up as much debt as the prior 10 years combined.... Dozens of Canadian post-secondary institutions are posting multi-million dollar deficits, often for the first time. Newfoundland and Labrador’s already-shaky financial situation has been thrust onto the brink of bankruptcy.... For now, all this unprecedented borrowing has not overly compromised Canada’s federal credit rating, but the consequences will begin to show in future budgets as the cost of servicing debt becomes our single greatest public expense....

"It’s difficult to put an exact figure on the number of businesses wiped out by COVID-19, but a running list of retail closures includes everything from the shuttering of 300 Canadian Starbucks locations to the mass-closure of Canadian Disney stores. In November, the Canadian Federation of Independent Business was estimating that 225,000 firms would not survive the pandemic. 

"And the worst wave of business closures may be yet to come. Last month, the Canadian Chamber of Commerce projected that a disproportionately high rate of bankruptcies and business closures could extend well into 2022. Many businesses that were critically wounded by COVID-19 remain open by taking on debt or relying on government supports such as the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy....

"As of this writing, Canadian COVID-19 deaths stood at 26,550. Second only to the Spanish Flu, the toll makes COVID-19 our deadliest natural disaster. However, Canada’s average death rate (70.53 per 100,000) is roughly in league with Israel, which has often received praise for its handling of the pandemic....However, COVID-19 deaths have overshadowed a dramatic rise in fatalities in other areas, often as as a direct result of pandemic measures.

"Most notably, the opioid crisis has never been worse. Between April and December of 2020, 5,148 Canadians died of an overdose, a rise of 89 per cent over the same period in 2019. As Health Canada has theorized, border closures made the illicit drug supply more toxic, and social distance caused the curbing of medical services that had previously been instrumental in keeping many addicts alive.

"The months-long suspension of routine medical services is also expected to yield a rise in preventable cancer deaths that will be playing out for years after the official end of lockdowns. Modelling by Statistics Canada has estimated ... an extra 440 Canadians will die of colorectal cancer as a result of the more than 540,000 screenings missed during the pandemic. A November paper in the Journal of Medical Screening similarly estimated that just six months of missed mammograms could yield up to 250 additional breast cancer deaths in Canada. In Quebec, the province’s health ministry has estimated that up to 4,000 people have gone undiagnosed with cancer as a result of a sharp dropoff in mammograms, pap smears and colorectal cancer screens.

"One spot of good news, however, is that lockdowns haven’t inspired a spike in deaths in the one category where everybody assumed they would: suicides. Although the pandemic has played havoc with people’s mental health, the number of Canadians taking their own lives under lockdown has either remained stable or gone into decline." 

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