By: Michelle Young, Editor-in-Chief
As of January 5, “All air travellers two years of age and older, taking a flight originating from the People’s Republic of China, Hong Kong, or Macao that lands in Canada must provide proof of a negative COVID-19 test result, regardless of citizenship or vaccination status.” Not only does this make no sense for COVID-19 policy — it also, once again, fuels anti-Asian sentiment by suggesting COVID-19 is largely carried by people coming from these places.
A statement from the BC government frames this new policy as a way to “protect Canadians from COVID-19.” They weren’t protecting us in the first place, though. There are already substantial levels of COVID-19 in BC, and hundreds of people were hospitalized from the virus at the start of January. Focusing on travel restrictions for a problem that is already here is nothing more than a smoke screen to look like the province cares. The US has incredibly high amounts of COVID-19 transmission, and yet, no additional restrictions announced for them to enter Canada.
The CDC itself reported data from the WHO which found over 1,000,000 COVID-19 cases reported in the US in the last 30 days. In comparison, China had over 800,000 cases in the last 30 days. It’s also important to note that while China has been criticized for undercounting its COVID-19 data, the US is also undercounting. Even if we had an accurate picture across the globe, these travel restrictions would be ineffective, because COVID-19 is ever present in Canada anyways.
It’s true there is a new COVID-19 variant, but this is not the way to combat it. You can still carry and transmit COVID-19 with a negative test result. The move has already been critiqued by multiple experts across Canada as being a political decision, rather than one based in science. Anti-Asian sentiment has been on the rise since 2020, and we obviously haven’t learned anything from the consequences of unfairly stigmatizing these groups.
It is not difficult to curb COVID-19 transmission — we know how — it’s just that BC hasn’t been taking the steps to make that happen. Acting like there is no more pandemic, while simultaneously encouraging booster shots doesn’t work. Pointing fingers at other countries and arbitrary restrictions doesn’t work. What does work is mandating masks in public spaces, providing paid sick leave so people can stay home when they feel unwell, and improving ventilation, in addition to vaccination. All together, we could have a much nicer time waging this war against the pandemic: a world where the healthcare system isn’t collapsing and there aren’t as many mass reinfections, deaths, and disabilities. There is no perfect solution, but there are better ones than what’s being implemented now.
COVID-19 is not a problem unique to China, Hong Kong, or Macao. If Canada was truly interested in COVID-19 management, we would be looking at the many “tools” we have at our disposal — most of which are not being used here.