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As we reopen our economy, we must think ahead to COVID-19’s second wave – Toronto Star

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The COVID-19 pandemic isn’t over, not even close, though popular sentiment of late has shifted to the idea that maybe it is.

In fact, the pandemic threatens to claim even more Canadian lives, and to sabotage our plans for reopening the economy.

The dreaded “second wave” of COVID-19 that was expected to strike us in the fall is already hitting European and Pacific Rim countries that thought they had COVID-19 beat.

COVID-19 is a virus that remains largely a mystery. It kills and harms people in varied ways in different places.

The one thing in common among jurisdictions suffering relapses of COVID-19 is that they have all reopened their economies, as Canada has begun to do.

Indeed, many jurisdictions reopening their economies have yet to emerge from COVID-19’s first wave. They include the U.S., Britain, Brazil, Russia, Ontario and Quebec.

Dr. Theresa Tam, Canada’s chief public health officer, has warned that the second wave of COVID-19 could be more devastating than the first.

Tam has urged health and government officials to ramp up COVID-19 testing capacity; to increase the number of hospital beds for treatment of people suffering from the virus; and to bolster supplies of personal protective equipment (PPE).

That was a month ago, yet there has been little progress on those imperatives.

One example: As of June 18, Canada lagged most major economies in COVID-19 testing, a basic necessity in fighting the virus. With just over 59,000 tests per million population, Canada trails the U.S. (79,000), Britain (105,000) and Denmark (148,000), among others.

But if we act now, we can minimize the impact of a second wave that might strike sooner than the fall flu season.

Most health experts believe Canada is not prepared for a second wave.

Canada’s three levels of government still can’t or won’t promptly share crucial medical data, though doing so is essential in quickly containing future COVID-19 outbreaks. (To be fair, U.S. authorities are equally negligent.)

Hospitals and long-term-care facilities (LTC) are still scrambling for PPE. And a continued lack of reform of the LTC sector might be our biggest reason to fear a disastrous second wave.

These are some of the crisis measures required to minimize the harm from a second COVID-19 wave.

Emergency measures in LTC

Eighty-five per cent of the total 8,484 COVID-19 deaths in Canada are tied to long-term-care facilities. That’s the highest proportion of any major economy.

And that largely accounts for a Canadian pandemic fatality rate, of about 7 per cent, that is more than twice the global average (3.8 per cent).

There’s every reason to expect that the second COVID-19 wave, like the first, will do its greatest harm in the LTC sector.

There isn’t time for the total reinvention of LTC earlier discussed in this space.

But starting now, we can impose on all LTC facilities a standard, approved protocol for rapid, effective response to outbreaks.

As well, inspections of LTC facilities must be increased in frequency; no longer be conducted over the phone but done in person; and occur without prior warning to the LTC facility, as continues to be the practice in many provinces.

And we need to build temporary patient isolation units adjoining LTC facilities. We also need them near hospitals, so that acute-care facilities are not overwhelmed with COVID-19 patients in a second wave.

An army of infectious disease experts (IDE)

We must deploy communicable-disease experts in LTC facilities and in reopened schools, daycare facilities and industrial workplaces.

Their job is to prevent, identify and report outbreaks.

Some IDEs would be assigned full-time on-site positions at the bigger LTC facilities and at workplaces with large employee populations.

Other IDEs would be assigned to as many as four smaller locations.

Since travel among locations is implicated in disease spread, IDEs working multiple locations would be COVID-19 tested when they arrive and depart each facility, and would be provided adequate PPE and the training to use it properly.

Such skilled personnel are scarce, of course. With workplaces reopening, occupational health nurses have become a new front line against COVID-19. They will require the same IDE training that their fellow front-line health workers need.

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Rapid response

On average, countries that were late in imposing anti-COVID-19 measures have suffered eight times the number of fatalities of countries that acted at the first sign of trouble.

Those measures have included, of course, social distancing, stay-at-home orders, travel restrictions and workplace closures.

And they worked.

In detecting the initial signs of a second wave, we need an “emergency brake” on economic reopening, as Taiwan and South Korea have devised. We need a national protocol that can achieve a return to full or selected lockdown in a rapid but orderly way. And we need employers and individuals to know the protocol ahead of future outbreaks.

What you can do

Ontario, Alberta, Germany, Japan and several other jurisdictions have made contact-tracing apps available for voluntary downloading. The Ontario version, developed in Canada, is called COVID Alert.

The app warns users that they may be at risk of infection, due to contact with a person who has tested positive for COVID-19.

Quickly notifying such people is essential in containing outbreaks.

There has been some popular resistance in the GTA to the app, on privacy grounds.

But COVID Alert doesn’t store or share personal or medical data or even GPS location. It merely complements rigorous tracing efforts by public health authorities that are already in place.

So, download the app. It could save your life, and the lives of others.

And wear a mask, especially in crowded indoor spaces. The COVID-19-laced droplets an infected person expels remain airborne for as long as half an hour, primed to infect others.

Finally, evidence is mounting that a lot of people are getting careless of others in no longer following the safety measures by which millions of lives have been saved.

So far, most of the Canadian incidents have been isolated cases. Many of the breaches elsewhere appear to be persistent.

Every day brings new images of people amassed at the beach, travelling by the busload to tourist attractions, crowded into places of worship, or attending packed rallies and demonstration. Few participants wear a mask.

The images are followed by reports of as many as one-third of the participants testing positive for COVID-19.

The pandemic has not been called off. It remains a clear and present danger until we’ve all been vaccinated.

In the meantime, be well and stay safe. And enjoy the outdoors now before the arrival of flu season, or a second wave that could hit us well before that.

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Investing in conservation generates huge returns for economy, study finds – CBC.ca

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With Earth’s wildlife now facing an extinction crisis, a group of economists and scientists is hoping to persuade governments that it pays to protect nature.

Specifically, expanding areas under conservation could yield a return of at least $5 for every $1 spent just by giving nature more room to thrive.

That in turn would boost agricultural and forestry yields, improve freshwater supplies, preserve wildlife and help fight climate change — all of which would boost global economic output on average by about $337 billion ($250 billion US) annually, the group of more than 100 researchers argues in a paper published online Wednesday by The Campaign for Nature, a coalition of conservation organizations from around the world.

A bunch of grapes is pictured in a vineyard few days before harvest in Cenac, France, September 17, 2019. Preserving natural areas boost agricultural and forestry yields, the report found. (Regis Duvignau/Reuters)

The work represents one of the most comprehensive studies of the potential economic benefits from protecting nature — a research area fraught with best-guess estimates on the monetary value of animals, plants and ecosystems left intact.

Released as the United Nations lobbies governments to set aside 30 per cent of their land and sea by 2030, the report aims to challenge the notion that conservation is costly.

“You cannot put a price tag on nature, but the economic numbers point to its protection,” said Anthony Waldron, an ecologist at the University of Cambridge who lead the group examining the economic implications of designating a third of the Earth as a nature reserve.

Others question how precise accounting for nature’s economic contribution is even possible, said Bram Büscher, a political scientist at Wageningen University & Research in the Netherlands.

“What are two ducks worth? And would these ducks in the U.S. be the same as in Latin America? And how would you compare those things, and what would be their role?” Büscher told Reuters.

Economic arguments can backfire

Leaning too heavily on economic arguments could also backfire, if governments end up opening areas deemed valuable to the highest bidders, warned Julia Steinberger, an environmental economist at the University of Leeds.

“All it takes is one lobbyist to come along and say, ‘This program is no longer economically viable,'” Steinberger said. “That’s the risk we see when we tie environmental protection to economic performance.”

But even a rough estimate of nature’s economic value is better than nothing, given the scale of what is at stake, the report’s authors argue. Scientists estimate that at least a million species are facing extinction in the next few decades, largely due to human-driven activities including habitat loss, pollution and climate change.

Hoping to halt the global die-off, 30 countries are already backing a draft document pledging to conserve 30 per cent of the Earth’s surface by 2030, which will be discussed at the UN Biodiversity Convention postponed to next year in Kunming, China.

Sea lions are seen in San Cristobal Island at Galapagos Marine Reserve, Ecuador, October 10, 2016. Currently, about 15 per cent of the Earth’s land and 7 per cent of the ocean has some degree of protection. (Nacho Doce/Reuters)

Currently, about 15 per cent of the Earth’s land and 7 per cent of the ocean has some degree of protection.

A 30 per cent conservation goal, aside from producing natural resources like fish stocks and timber, would also help to guarantee healthy ecosystems that provide an additional $472 billion ($350 billion US) a year in services that are essential to life, including filtering water, clearing air pollutants or preventing coastal erosion, the report said.

Such a goal would require an average annual investment of roughly $189 billion ($140 billion US) by 2030, the researchers estimated. Currently, about $32 billion ($24 billion US) is spent globally per year on protecting natural areas, they said.

“The well-being of humanity and global economic prosperity depends on us fixing our broken relationship with nature,” said report co-author Enric Sala, an ocean explorer in residence at National Geographic Society.

The report said that a major expansion in protected areas would have to be managed carefully to ensure that the economic benefits were spread evenly throughout populations.

But first, countries have to join the effort. And even then, compliance is not guaranteed. Despite having more than 190 countries pledge to fight climate change under the 2015 Paris Agreement, emissions of heat-trapping gases continue to rise.

Nevertheless, with some U.S. states pledging to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, there is growing interest in finding ways to account for the economic benefits provided by forests and other ecosystems, said economist John Talberth at the Center For Sustainable Economy in Portland, Oregon.

Understanding these economic benefits can also help policymakers decide, for example, whether a forest can be felled for timber or better left untouched to absorb carbon dioxide and support wildlife or water cycles. “The climate crisis has put a foot on the accelerator of getting this done,” Talberth said.

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Where will Canada’s coronavirus economy go next? Here are 3 possible scenarios – Globalnews.ca

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The fiscal “snapshot” of the state of Canada’s finances amid the coronavirus pandemic makes it clear that a high level of economic uncertainty remains.

But officials still outlined several possible scenarios for what could come next for Canada’s economy — and they depend on whether there is a serious second wave of COVID-19 transmission.

Read more:
Canada’s coronavirus deficit soaring to $343B as feds warn of ‘permanent change’ to economy

In a news conference with reporters, Finance Minister Bill Morneau said the snapshot included what the federal government knows now and “a sense” of what officials think will occur in the short term, noting that “the ability to forecast is extremely difficult” at this time.

Here are three possible scenarios outlined in the snapshot released on Wednesday:

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The main economic outlook

The main economic outlook for Canada contained in the document is based on the results of a survey of private-sector economists conducted by the federal finance department in the third week of May.

Federal officials are using the average of those results as the basis for its fiscal projections for the year ahead.

The results of the survey are “most consistent with slow, steady and relatively low levels of ongoing community transmission of the virus,” according to the government’s snapshot.

Read more:
Canada reviewing its coronavirus aid to prepare for possible 2nd wave, Trudeau says

The unemployment rate — which peaked in the second quarter of 2020 — may remain higher than pre-COVID-19 levels throughout the rest of 2020 and 2021, declining gradually to around seven per cent by the end of 2021, the projections showed.

The average results of the survey also showed private-sector economists expect the country’s real GDP to drop 6.8 per cent in 2020 — a contraction expected to be “much worse than experienced during the 2008-2009 financial crisis.”






6:20
Coronavirus: Trudeau says federal government went into debt so Canadians ‘wouldn’t have to’


Coronavirus: Trudeau says federal government went into debt so Canadians ‘wouldn’t have to’

But the average of the forecasts predicted “a faster rebound in real GDP than in the past three recessions,” positing that real GDP would rebound by 5.5 per cent in 2021.

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“While private-sector views are relatively aligned on the magnitude of the second-quarter decline [in 2020], their third-quarter growth forecasts diverge widely, reflecting tremendous uncertainty around, for example, the pace of rehiring and investment, rebound in consumer activity, etc.,” the snapshot read.






3:05
Fiscal Snapshot: Morneau says keeping COVID-19 transmission rate down key part of economic plan


Fiscal Snapshot: Morneau says keeping COVID-19 transmission rate down key part of economic plan

A “further resurgence” of the coronavirus in Canada and a second wave of measures to contain it “would severely hamper the economic recovery” — but that resurgence could still be “less economically damaging” than the first wave, the report cautioned.

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Citing the “high degree” of uncertainty over how the pandemic will continue to unfold from both public health and economic perspectives and Canadians’ level of caution during that time, the federal government also included two “alternative scenarios” to economists’ projections in its snapshot, which painted more grim outlooks.

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The ‘uneven and gradual recovery’ scenario

The first alternative scenario outlined a more “uneven and gradual recovery” from the pandemic, assuming a “slower pace of return to normal” of economic activity and “repetitive peaks of viral transmission.”

Under that first scenario, households would continue to avoid most public spaces and activities, while businesses wouldn’t fully rebound amid “stringent containment measures” and would continue to operate below capacity.

Read more:
Does the coronavirus pandemic really come in waves? Experts raise doubts

Those “prolonged shutdowns” would result in more permanent, rather than temporary, job losses, resulting in a “more uneven recovery” across the country and a drop in real GDP of 9.6 per cent in 2020.

“With the pace of business resumption still uncertain, it is unknown whether this scenario will come to pass or not, but it illustrates the potential downside risks that could still exist,” the snapshot noted.

The ‘virus resurgence scenario’

The second scenario considers a serious resurgence of COVID-19 with “uncontrolled transmission” and a sharp increase in new cases later in 2020, evolving into a series of smaller waves of transmission next year.

In that scenario, the resurgence would occur at the same time as the annual flu season and force another round of social and economic shutdowns as part of renewed containment measures.

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Read more:
2nd coronavirus wave could have ‘serious impact’ on economy, Bank of Canada says

Economic activity would tank again, and while it might be less severe than during the first wave, the economic damage would be “large,” the document said — resulting in re-closed businesses, fresh layoffs and less spending.

“Overall, this translates into a deeper and longer-lasting negative impact on the economy, with a decline of 11.2 per cent in real GDP in 2020 and the level of real GDP remaining below that of even the most pessimistic private-sector forecast by the end of 2021,” the document said of the second alternative scenario.

Longer-term economic update coming in the fall: Morneau

Which scenario Canada is headed toward may become clearer later this year.

Morneau told reporters the government intends to release a meatier, longer-term economic update or budget and its plans for the “path forward” in the fall, when officials “have more information.”

“We are in a situation where the ability to forecast is extremely difficult,” the finance minister said.






6:20
Fiscal Snapshot: Morneau details how COVID-19 benefits have helped Canadians, businesses


Fiscal Snapshot: Morneau details how COVID-19 benefits have helped Canadians, businesses

Canada is indeed “in unprecedented times,” Sahir Khan, executive vice-president of the Institute of Fiscal Studies and Democracy at the University of Ottawa, told Global News.

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“Whatever number you put out, it’s going to be wrong no matter what,” Khan said.

“For better or for worse, I think we are looking at the federal government as the resource that can restart this economy because I think we don’t have anywhere else to turn.”






8:38
Fiscal Snapshot: Scheer says Morneau gave no plan to support reopening


Fiscal Snapshot: Scheer says Morneau gave no plan to support reopening

In a statement following the release of the fiscal snapshot on Wednesday, the president and CEO of the Canadian Chamber of Commerce criticized the government for not including a “longer-term fiscal plan” in its fiscal snapshot.

“Today should have been an opportunity to offer Canadians a clear picture of the challenges and a coherent strategy to address them,” Perrin Beatty wrote.

© 2020 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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Fiscal 'snapshot' to reveal economic impact of COVID-19 on Canadian economy – CTV News

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OTTAWA —
Canadians will get a clearer picture of the current state of the economy and national deficit when Finance Minister Bill Morneau unveils what’s been billed as an economic and fiscal “snapshot” on Wednesday afternoon. Morneau will present the snapshot inside the House of Commons—which is gathered for a special committee of the whole session— at around 1:40 p.m. ET.

Speaking to reporters in advance of the snapshot being made public, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said it’s clear that certain sectors will bounce back and some people will be able to find work, but others won’t, and so ongoing government support will be necessary through the economic rebound phase.

“When the pandemic first hit, a lot of people lost their jobs overnight. They didn’t know how they were going to feed their families, or pay their bills. Faced with this unprecedented challenge our government had two options: We could sit back and let Canadians fend for themselves… or we could swiftly and substantially choose to support Canadians. We chose to support Canadians,” Trudeau said.

The report—which is not a federal budget or a fiscal update—is set to show the current state of the federal deficit and the impact of the nearly more than $193 billion in spending on direct COVID-19 aid to Canadians as well as health and safety measures. Among the biggest ticket items to date: the $2,000 a month Canada Emergency Response Benefit; the 75 per cent wage subsidy; and the Canada Emergency Business Account, which offers businesses loans of up to $40,000. 

The snapshot is also going to look at how Canada’s economic response compares to that of other countries and forecast what can be expected economically in the months ahead. 

The overall economic numbers will be the first offered by the federal government since a December 2019 update—the only of the Liberal minority since the last election—which projected the deficit would rise to $28.1 billion in 2020-21.

The 2020 federal budget date was scheduled to be March 30 but that was cancelled due to the surging COVID-19 pandemic at the time.

In the December update, Canada’s debt-to-GDP ratio was at 30.9 per cent and projected to remain on track to reduce incrementally over the next few years.

Over the last few months federal job numbers have already showed millions are out of work, and a growing list of businesses are set to shutter their doors permanently.

In an effort to buoy businesses big and small, in addition to the direct spending offered, the federal government has offered billions in liquidity and government-guaranteed loans which Morneau has said he hopes will bridge key job creators in this country to better times.

Today’s snapshot comes after opposition parties and economists called for a more robust fiscal update. Already the Conservatives and New Democrats have spelled out what they expect to see from the economic report card. While the Conservatives are calling for a clear path out of the red—which is now likely to be a years-long endeavour—the NDP want to see a plan for continuing to support those disproportionately impacted by the economic downturn. 

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