Lockdowns in Canada Went Against ‘Hard Lessons’ Learned From Previous Pandemics: Emergency Management Expert

WHO guidelines issued prior to COVID-19 warned against measures such as closing businesses and schools to curb pandemics
By Isaac Teo
Isaac Teo
Isaac Teo
Isaac is a reporter based in Toronto.
August 2, 2021 Updated: August 4, 2021

Canada’s use of lockdowns during the COVID-19 pandemic goes against all previous knowledge, published studies, and Canadian pandemic response plans, says a former head of the Alberta Emergency Management Agency, adding that the collateral damage will last for at least a generation.

We just ignored [existing pandemic plans] and placed the medical officers in charge who were not trained to do this,” said David Redman, adding that those existing plans from all  provinces and territories as well as the federal government can be found on pandemicalternative.org

Redman was speaking at a webinar hosted by the Frontier Centre for Public Policy on July 29, commenting on how governments have sidelined pre-established emergency plans prepared based on “all the hard lessons learned” from previous pandemics.

He pointed to a guidance document published by the World Health Organization (WHO) in September 2019, prior to the arrival of COVID-19, titled “Non-pharmaceutical public health measures for mitigating the risk and impact of epidemic and pandemic influenza.

“The best infectious disease doctors in the world had produced this document repeatedly about every five years, last updated immediately before this pandemic,” Redman said.

“Out of the 15 [non-pharmaceutical interventions listed in the document]—ones that we’ve come to know, closure of business, closure of schools, isolation of people that have been exposed—all three of those were strongly recommended against in a pandemic of this nature,” he said. “Why? Because it was known from previous pandemics that those measures have no significant impact on the spread of a viral disease of the nature of COVID.”

Epoch Times Photo
David Redman, former executive director of the Alberta Emergency Management Agency, in August 2018. (Handout)

Quarantine of exposed individuals, entry and exit screening for infection in travellers, border closure, and contact tracing are among the six non-pharmaceutical interventions (NPIs) listed in the WHO document that are not recommended under any circumstances.

The document additionally states that “the evidence base on the effectiveness of NPIs in community settings is limited, and the overall quality of evidence [of their effectiveness in reducing influenza transmission] was very low for most interventions.

“Workplace closures should be a last step only considered in extraordinarily severe epidemics and pandemics,” the WHO document states. And while it said school closure can be used “during a severe epidemic or pandemic,” it advised that “the adverse effects on the community should be fully considered (e.g. family burden and economic considerations), and the timing and duration should be limited to a period that is judged to be optimal.

A Matter of Due Diligence

A number of scientific studies have been done during the COVID-19 pandemic to review the effectiveness of the lockdowns. A study published in the European Journal of Clinical Investigation in January, titled “Assessing mandatory stay-at-home and business closure effects on the spread of COVID-19,” called these measures “the most restrictive NPIs for controlling the spread of COVID-19” and concluded that they do not produce the desired results.

“While small benefits cannot be excluded, we do not find significant benefits on case growth of more restrictive NPIs. Similar reductions in case growth may be achievable with less-restrictive interventions,” stated the study.

In his paper titled “Canada’s Deadly Response to COVID-19,” Redman wrote that the use of these NPIs had in fact been discussed during the development of pandemic plans in every province and territory, as well as at the federal level, with the advantages and disadvantages made known and taken into account.

“I can’t figure out why they didn’t follow the very plans that they knew existed,” he said in the webinar. “And that to me is due diligence—you either knew or should have known.”

Redman also noted in his paper that by mid-March 2020, it was known that people most at risk from COVID-19 were seniors.

For example, his paper referred to a WHO report from the week of March 23–29, 2020, which showed an increase in the death rate for people aged 50 and above in the European region. For those under 50, COVID-19 was “not deadly in most cases, appearing to be less serious than annual seasonal influenza,” Redman wrote. “For people over the age of 70 and for those over the age of 60 with other severe comorbidities, COVID-19 virus was recognized as a serious concern.”

Redman argued that governments, due to a lack of due diligence, jumped to “obvious or seemingly logical assumptions of how to resolve tasks.” One example, he said, was “the assumption that the only way to deal with COVID-19 was to enact severe authoritarian lockdowns as witnessed in China.”

“We had time to develop options for care for our most at risk, but chose to follow the failed lockdowns of China, Italy and Spain in the first wave,” he wrote. “In subsequent waves, ignoring all evidence and science, we continued to follow the failed use of lockdowns, killing tens of thousands more of our most-at-risk.”

Epoch Times Photo
Paramedics take an elderly patient from the Tendercare Living Centre long-term care facility during the COVID-19 pandemic in Scarborough, Ont., on Dec. 23, 2020. (The Canadian Press/Nathan Denette)

Use of Fear

Redman noted that the “unconscionable use of fear” during this pandemic to ensure the public’s compliance has caused a “breach in confidence in government that will last a decade or more. The damage to our democracy will last at least a generation.”

“The intentional use of modelling (never considered for use in this manner) to create fear, the use of daily case counts to create fear, the use of specific cases to manipulate the public into belief that COVID-19 was equally deadly to all age groups, the use of the term ‘variants of concern’ with misleading percentages given for spread and terms like ‘may be more deadly,’ never attempting to place COVID-19 into perspective of other daily risks, acting as if lockdowns were the only way to save lives. These are all tools of fear to control the public,” he wrote.

The use of fear, whether intentionally or not, will result in long-term, unpredictable, uncontrollable, and severe collateral damage, he stated in his paper.

Overall, the lockdowns have caused massive collateral damage to mental health, societal health, children’s education and socialization, individuals with other severe illnesses, the national economy, civil rights, and trust in democracy, wrote Redman.

Redman said the prime minister, premiers, and medical officers of health are responsible for this “deadly Canadian response.”

“When areas of responsibility are not met, either by lack of due diligence or knowingly disregarding requirements, accountability must be enforced.”

Isaac Teo
Isaac Teo
Isaac is a reporter based in Toronto.