Lockdowns—A Dissenting Opinion

Stephen LeDrew

May 28, 2020

On May 27, the Ontario government extended its emergency legislation once again, locking down the province until June 9. It deployed the same tired mantra of protecting “the health and safety of the public” as its rationale.

But aside from turning almost every citizen into a lawbreaker with unreasonable rules (you can have a family gathering of five persons, but not seven– what to do, leave the grandfather on the street?) , the question that has not been examined sufficiently is whether this really is protecting health and safety. A strong case is starting to appear that it might actually cost more than would otherwise be the result without such a continued and restrictive lock-down.

More than 80 percent of the deaths from COVID-19 are in nursing or retirement homes—-the lockdown has done nothing to improve that statistic. Indeed, after a devastating Canadian Armed Forces report on living conditions in five long-term care homes for seniors was released on May 26, Premier Doug Ford called a commission of inquiry the next day.

So the lockdown has continued in place for the 20 percent potentially impacted by COVID. As reported in the London Times, over 12,000 more people in Britain have died at home than usual since the lockdown—almost as many as have been killed by COVID.

This means that the draconian lockdown in Britain could very well have killed more people than had there not been the lockdown. And now Britain is reporting that COVID caused only 30 deaths under the age of 40. What must be asked is how many more than 30 died as a result of the stress of the lockdown–the mental illness, the domestic violence, not to say despair.

And as for the fear factor, a well-respected statistician has calculated that those under 65 run the same risk of death by COVID as they would commuting 185 miles every day. How many in our population do that daily—without fear! It could be accurately argued that Canadian leaders have abdicated their legitimate political responsibilities, by simply repeating and following the recommendations of the “experts” instead of making well-rounded, informed decisions.

First: there are no experts in this virus—they know more than the layman—but not a lot more.

Second: we are not governed by the experts. Were that the case—step aside leaders, and let the experts rule us. But we are not ruled by the experts— we are governed by politicians whom we elect because they are supposed to rule with knowledge, sagacity and judgment.

That means listening to experts, discussing with other wise leaders and politicians, taking into consideration factors aside from the obvious medical ones, and charting a wise course.

So in the case of this pandemic, our leaders should be consulting with not only epidemiologists, but economists, business leaders, psychologists, perhaps some academics, and a bunch of worldly and experienced and smart people.

We have these people in spades in Canada—some of them tell me they are never called upon—in some cases, even after volunteering.

Which results in narrow and costly decisions such as extended lockdowns. Or rather, non-decisions. Our leaders just repeat a policy set by someone else who has no idea of the consequences of their narrow medical advice. I do not blame the experts—it is the politicians who are letting us down.

And now our country is starting to wake up to the consequences of this abdication. The totality will not be apparent for generations, but by then they will not only be suffering the economic consequences, but the damage caused to the societal and mental and physiological health of our nation—and it is widespread.

Let’s start with the suicides and mental health damage caused by the “stay home” order.

In Toronto, individuals are jumping off high-rises to their deaths as a result of government-induced stress—no figures are released by the authorities. Shelter-at-home was a necessity at the start when we did not know how this virus was going to impact—how many hospital beds would be needed—how fast COVID-19 could spread.

But soon after we did know, and our leaders still ordered citizens to stay at home—at the behest of the experts, who do not take into account all of the costs involved.

Thousands of businesses have been forced to close, throwing millions out of work, and putting them on employment insurance–we know the impact of that. And millions of students out of school—their schools basically closed from spring until fall.

And now this summer—camps closed—children missing out on essential experiences of their youth, along with thousands of young counsellors missing the life experience, and the income for college tuition in September.

As for September, administrators are fretting over re- opening classes. A virus that alone kills fewer people than car crashes, cancer, heart disease, liver failure, and so many other causes of death every day, has been used, inadvertently, by our well-meaning leaders to shut down our society.

Yes—precautions should be taken.

Yes—politicians should have commandeered empty warehouses and factories as labs to test for the virus—it is astounding that we did not have sufficient capacity to test people as to whether they were infected or not—both our politicians and medical experts missed the boat on this simple requirement—notwithstanding the common sense observation that if you can determine that you have contacted, you can isolate and contain.

The public policy issue is all about managing the risk in an intelligent manner—taking into account all of the myriad costs of locking down.

It is not too late to bring some good judgment to bear on this shutdown policy.

Stephen LeDrew, a Toronto lawyer, is a former president of the Liberal Party of Canada.