Editorial: Staying United in Isolation

  • Graphic Carl Bindman

What a difference a week makes.

COVID-19, which seemed so remote, now seems to dominate our entire lives. Measures to act swiftly, that seemed blown out of proportion, have become more and more apparently the right thing to do.

While COVID-19 is not usually acutely dangerous in young people, and most people who do get COVID-19 undergo relatively minor symptoms, slowing its spread is the responsibility of the whole community.

Many of us are reminded of our yearning for a powerful collective response to other emergencies, such as the climate crisis, but this is no reason to be dismissive of the need to come together at this moment.

In spite of comparisons, the novel coronavirus is more contagious and more deadly than the seasonal flu, and, critically, there is no vaccine. This means the threat to vulnerable people is that much more serious. Further, the number of cases that would require urgent medical attention signals any rapid spread would inundate and rupture our healthcare system, endangering all patients whether they have COVID-19 or not.

Yet, we must reflect on what it means to come together while we stand apart; it means exercising caution but shunning paranoia. Information moves extremely quickly, so it’s extremely important to rely on health specialists for information and not any random viral post that has half of its information wrong.

We must resist the urge to look upon one another with suspicion, and we must remember we cannot help ourselves in isolation.

This is a difficult time, not only economically but emotionally as well. We must respect the need to keep our distance while finding other ways to comfort each other. Keep in contact with people in your life during this anxious period. Social media can be a cesspool, but it’s a damn effective way to keep contact with loved ones from a distance.

Be kind to strangers, too. This is no time to hoard hand sanitizer and toilet paper. This is no time to panic. This is not the time for greed—it never is.

This is a time for solidarity.

It’s not enough to tell people not to go to work. Sure, more privileged workers can stay away from the office, but what of the hourly workers who depend the most on weekly wages? We must worry not only about our own cupboards but demand that our neighbour’s cupboard also be stocked. April 1 will come and go, and nobody should have to worry about what will happen if they can’t pay their rent, whether this crisis has run its course by then or not.

Why is the Régie du logement still holding eviction hearings? We should be focused on getting people inside, not throwing them out in the cold.

And when this is said and done, we must absorb this evidence that we do have the power to put the brakes on society’s most unyielding forces.

Are not poverty, reconciliation, and extinction also worthy of massive collective action? We must commit to what is necessary from each of us to protect the whole, to protect the vulnerable. And we hope this moment will teach us what is possible when those in power finally acknowledge something real must be done.

This is no time for business as usual.

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