'Shift From Defence to Offence' to Exit the Pandemic Completely, Expert Group Advises

Not enough to simply lift restrictions, says Science & Policy Committee to Exit the Pandemic

'Shift From Defence to Offence' to Exit the Pandemic Completely, Expert Group Advises
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau speaks as Minister of Health Jean-Yves Duclos and Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland participate in a news conference in Ottawa on Jan. 5, 2022. (The Canadian Press/Justin Tang)
Isaac Teo

Scientists and policy experts with a focus on exiting the pandemic say even though most jurisdictions in Canada have more or less lifted or suspended COVID-19 restrictions, not enough attention has been paid to the details of eliminating restrictions and mandates across the board.

This results in “huge inconsistencies, caprices and ‘stickiness’” that impede a complete and orderly exit from the pandemic, says the Canada Science & Policy Committee to Exit the Pandemic.
In the latest update to its national exit plan issued in February, the committee says governments at all levels must unwind all remaining “kinks” or “incoherences” and “shift from defence to offence” so that Canada can exit the pandemic across all systems and regions concurrently.

“Many of these officials think that the problem is just COVID,” Irvin Studin, co-chair of the committee, told The Epoch Times. “If we collapse eight systems in a country, to get out of any of the systems we need to provide energy to all the systems at the same time.”

The eight systems Studin referred to consist of COVID-19 public health, non-COVID public health, business and the economy, education, institutions, national unity, the social fabric, and the international space. These areas must be addressed with a plan “premised on high-energy, high-choreography exit across all systems at once,” the committee said.
“For certainty, in order to properly exit the pandemic across the systems, the Exit Plan makes it clear that it is not enough to simply ‘lift’ restrictions,” Studin, an author and publisher of Global Brief Magazine, wrote in a blog about the update.

“Insufficient energy applied to the other systems in crisis will only consolidate low-equilibrium national living, or indeed expanding crises, across these same systems.”

The exit committee, made up of 14 members across various disciplines and regions in Canada, was launched in January under the aegis of the think tank Institute for 21st Century Questions (21CQ).

Among the committee’s core members are Dr. Kwadwo Kyeremanteng, a critical care physician at the Ottawa Hospital; Pierre Pettigrew, a former minister of health; Dr. Martha Fulford, associate professor at McMaster University and chief of medicine at the McMaster University Medical Centre; and Alexandra Lysova, an associate professor of criminology at Simon Fraser University.

Studin, also the president of 21CQ, said there must be “strong advice” from governments to send an unequivocal message to Canadians and institutions that all COVID-19 restrictions across the eight systems should end with immediate effect.

Regarding masking, he said the committee "now advises that Covid-19 masks be expressly removed as a regular feature of Canadian society, except (strictly) for those who are immunocompromised in congregate indoor settings during periods of high community transmission."

“Ours must not, if we are to succeed in exiting the pandemic with energy, be a society that masks simply for form, out of anxiety, or for no reason at all (or in the middle of nowhere on a rainy day)," Studin wrote in his blog.


Vaccine Mandates

A far more serious issue, according to the exit committee, is the imposition of vaccine requirements by institutions such as universities, colleges, summer camps, private schools, and sports organizations for youth.

Vaccine mandates and vaccine passports have been removed or suspended in most regions, but the committee's concern is that institutions have retained wording in their policies stating there could be a reintroduction of such mandates at any given point in the future, including requiring future employees or students to take the shots even when the general requirement has ended.

Studin said the "wild west" of vaccination and masking requirements by these institutions compromises the exit effort and destabilizes social cohesion across Canada, and such requirements should be prohibited.

“It takes a lot of work to unwind those vaccines, that 'vaccine entrepreneurship' at lower levels, and the government seems even unaware that that’s happening, unwilling to put in the work to unwind what we call those knots or points of incoherence,” he said.

“After you remove the restrictions, you have to go and lead hand by hand all these organizations to normalization on the vaccination, on the masks … so that we're all on the same page.”

Highlights in the updated exit plan include having physicians immediately return to in-person care, while at the same time eliminating incentives that come with providing virtual care “with maximum speed and seriousness."

The committee had also called for an end to the federal government's “incoherent” vaccine and testing requirements for travel. Amid mounting pressure from various sectors and because of airport congestion, Ottawa announced on June 14 that mandates preventing unvaccinated Canadians from flying domestically or flying out of Canada, and from working in the public service, are being suspended. Mandates remain for those flying into Canada from abroad, and all passengers and transport workers need to continue wearing masks.

In the case of students, the committee advises in-person schooling in the fall with no hybrid-style lessons. In addition, the members want school boards, principals, and medical scientific officials across Canada to “never again to dare close schools.”

For businesses that were “forcibly destroyed” during the pandemic period, the exit committee said they must receive full compensation. Governments and banks must be ready as well to offer start-up loans, loan guarantees, and grants to businesses, namely those in the retail, tourism, and food and beverage sectors.

Studin noted that the committee, which has declared Canada’s pandemic effectively over, will reach out to all levels of government as well as health officials, as it did in February, to help them better understand the importance of a strong exit plan.

"We were quite successful in the first iteration of the plan in February, insinuating vocabulary and concepts and the idea that we're now at an endemic stage in the pandemic for Canada," he said.
"We see what they cannot see, and then we also give them concepts to better understand the problem."