COVID-19 – it’s time to understand the full story

On March 22, 2020, Nova Scotia declared a state of emergency under which the government was empowered to order people to “stay the blazes home” (unless they needed essential items like groceries). Gatherings of more than five people were forbidden. Provincial parks and beaches were closed. (Yes, police officers patrolled public parks and gave out tickets to miscreant strollers.) Non-essential businesses could only remain open if social distancing could be maintained. These public health measures were a response to a worldwide pandemic that was unprecedented, unpredictable, and (as it turned out) somewhat uncontrollable.

This week, the province of Nova Scotia suspended Health Protection Act Orders under which special public health measures were taken to combat the spread of COVID-19. (This action followed the World Health Organization’s declaration that the virus no longer requires a global emergency response.) That’s good news, as is the statement by Dr. Robert Strang, Nova Scotia’s Chief Medical Officer of Health, that COVID-19 can now be managed in the same way as other endemic respiratory illnesses.

With all that behind us, it’s time to unravel the full COVID mystery – which centers on both the direct impact of the virus and the unintended consequences of the measures taken to combat it.  The impact on cancer care has perhaps been mostly fully studied.  Cancer surgeries were often delayed by COVID, sometimes with fatal consequences according to this study published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal. 

A Canadian Cancer Study report found 20 per cent fewer cancer surgeries were performed during the first six months of the pandemic.  Cancer patient appointments were frequently delayed or postponed as well. We could go on and on, citing studies outlining the impact of COVID on the overall delivery of health care across the spectrum.

It’s now the job of the provincial and federal governments to assemble and consolidate all that scattershot evidence on the effects of COVID-19 on the health of Canadians, and produce a comprehensive report on COVID-19 in Canada. Once Canadians and their governments have a full picture of the full impacts of COVID-19 on the health of Canadians, we will be better prepared to respond when the next pandemic comes calling.