As Canadians head into the second year of pandemic restrictions and some provinces are increasing lockdown measures to try and minimize hospital overwhelm, some voices in health care and emergency measure administration are calling for a different approach.
Dr. Matt Strauss, a critical care physician in Ontario and assistant professor at Queen’s University’s School of Medicine, says lockdowns are unethical and violate the Charter. Moreover, they only cut case numbers over the short term and their effectiveness in preventing mortality remains inconclusive, he told The Epoch Times.
“Everyone’s risk is not the same,” Dr. Strauss said. “So if I cut down the case rates in healthy 18-year-olds, I probably haven’t saved any lives. But if I can cut them for 80-year-olds in nursing homes, I’ve probably saved lots and lots of lives.”
Informed by a growing body of real-world data on lockdowns and similar restrictions on schools and businesses—dubbed non-pharmaceutical interventions (NPIs)—Strauss penned an article published in UK newspaper The Spectator in October last year, stating his case against another lockdown.
He argued that “mandatory government lockdowns amount to a medical recommendation of no proven benefit, of extraordinary potential harm, that do not take personal values and individual consent into account.”
Now, nearly seven months later, Strauss hasn’t changed his mind. Peer-reviewed literature has in fact stacked up against lockdown efficacy, like a December 2020 study published in Nature concluding that “individual effectiveness of these NPIs cannot be reliably quantified.”
Strauss says Ontario’s pandemic response is causing spikes in other negative social indicators like suicides and domestic violence.
“Just because they are unintended [consequences] doesn’t mean that they are unforeseeable. A lot of the terrible things we have been seeing could have been predicted,” said Strauss.
On top of treating severe COVID-19 infections during the pandemic, he had cared for seniors suffering from neglect amid lockdown measures, including one who was starving to death after their meal deliveries were interrupted.
“COVID is real, and it really can kill people. But that doesn’t mean the government policy can’t make it a hell of a lot worse. And I think that we’ve been witnessing that, unfortunately.”
Strauss says the government now has no excuse for its continued violation of individual rights, done under the auspices of protecting a health-care system that it failed to properly manage.
“To me, 14 months into this, and because we didn’t appreciably increase ICU capacity … even though this has been predictable and modelled the whole time, yet we still need to cancel your dad’s funeral and cancel your daughter’s wedding and not let your child go to school and not let your business open,” said Strauss.
“For our health-care mismanagers to now say they need to be rewarded for their incompetence by getting the ability to restrict our civil liberties is completely reprehensible.”
David Redman, a retired lieutenant colonel in the Canadian Forces and former head of the Alberta Emergency Management Agency, has been repeating a similar refrain on lockdowns since April 2020. He has written to premiers across Canada to express his concerns that leaders had scrapped existing pandemic guidelines “and decided to ignore all principles of emergency management.”
Redman said Alberta’s response, in particular, was focused only on the first of four basic goals in the province’s existing emergency pandemic plan—controlling the spread of disease and reducing illness and death—while ignoring the other three goals. Those three are “mitigating societal disruption by ensuring the continuity and recovery of critical services, minimizing adverse economic impact, and supporting an efficient and effective use of resources during response and recovery.”
Vaccine Take-Up Key to Lifting Restrictions?
Based on modelling released on April 23, Canada’s Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Theresa Tam said restrictions could be lifted “this summer” if by then at least 75 percent of Canadian adults have had their first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine and 20 percent have had their second shot. This is a statement both Redman and Strauss take issue with.
“It is not properly within the realm of public health to say how long they will be locking us in our homes. That is not something that unelected public health officials should have the authority to do,” said Strauss.
Individuals should be allowed to assess their own personal risk of getting COVID-19 when deciding whether to receive the vaccine, he said, adding, “So I think it is rather out of her lane to be making pronouncements like that.”
Redman has also been critical of authorities using the vaccine take-up as a criterion for lifting restrictions, as he told a recent panel studying COVID-19 management. While both he and Strauss have had the first dose of the Pfizer vaccine, he takes a similar view as Strauss in terms of assessing personal risk and protecting individual consent around vaccines.
“The government shouldn’t be using [vaccines] as a club to open up the economy when we know we never should’ve closed our economy,” Redman told the panel.