The goal in Canada regarding the pandemic needs to be something more realistic.

The temptation is a strong one: Canada should follow the lead of countries in Europe and Asia and implement a brief, tough lockdown, breaking the chain of viral infections and stopping the latest wave of COVID-19 cases in their tracks. It would also help solve the economic crisis, proponents say. 

“Theoretically if you have the possibility of doing a hard lockdown … after nine days you see the effect kick in very reliably,” Peter Jüni, director of the applied health research center at Toronto’s St. Michael’s Hospital, told CBC Wednesday. “Stuff like that is theoretically possible.”

Evidence suggests it might work. As the Vancouver-based Asia Pacific Foundation has shown in its research, places like China and Singapore followed similar advice, got the virus under control and reopened businesses. 

After 85,000 cases and nearly 5,000 deaths, China’s case count is now estimated at 400 in a population of 1.3 billion. Note: that’s about the same number as Toronto reported on a single day this week.

Furthermore, China’s economy has bounced back. Retail spending recently climbed above pre-COVID-19 levels.

Some believe that Asia’s case is unique. They put the region’s success down to autocratic governments and an obedient population. Yet others point out that such conditions do not apply to Thailand, for example, where cases remain low.

Elsewhere, people point to New Zealand, which has had only 25 deaths, and Australia, which despite a second peak, which has cut serious cases to near zero.

New Zealand’s success can be partly attributed to its early and strict crackdown and careful watch on infections from abroad. But Australia was a different case, where the second severe lockdown led to complaints from business leaders at the time that it would be devastating for the economy. This week, restrictions were lifted and businesses began opening again.

A key difference for Canada, however, particularly during the winter months, may be the sheer amount of time people spend indoors as opposed to countries with more moderate climates. 

In Canada, there have been criticisms of businesses and the politicians who support them for worrying about short-term profit rather than long-term containment of the virus, but research by Aya Aboelenien from the University of Montreal’s business school, the Hautes Études Commerciales, shows there are other issues at play, namely coronavirus fatigue.

Bearing this in mind, the goal in Canada should not be a virtual elimination of the virus, but something more realistic: preventing a growth in cases that would fill up hospitals and lead to a public health catastrophe.

Now that a vaccine is on the way, surely the most important thing is to keep businesses and their customers motivated and people staying within bubbles as much as possible, with the knowledge that relief will come in five months, when we move outside again.