‘Flattening the Curve’ – A Sign of Failure?
In the month of May, officials across Canada reported that the number of new COVID-19 cases have begun to decline.
In the words of Dr. Theresa Tam, the Chief Public Health Officer of Canada, she said, “We are flattening the curve.”
Provincial officials are praising the measures enforced province-wide during the past several months and we are hearing more and more talks about re-opening the economy and restoring some sense normalcy soon.
But are the measures and the results worthy of celebration?
In reality, the current situation with COVID-19 in Canada, reflects more of a failure than success.
First, Canada only resorted to a nationwide lockdown once it became apparent that it failed to contain the virus in the first place.
It could have contained the virus better if it acted quickly to test and quarantine infected people. Nations such as Taiwan, who implemented robust measures early, had only 500 cases and 7 deaths.
Second, despite the lockdown, certain parts of the Canadian population still suffered and continue to do so. The elderly in long-term care homes and facilities, for example, make up a staggering 82% of COVID-19 deaths in the country. Similarly, the emergency wage subsidies did not cover the needs of the homeless, students, and other vulnerable segments of society.
Today, health experts are warning that it is way too soon to start reopening the economy, especially without a vaccine ready. So, the situation is still quite delicate. But while the lack of a vaccine is a problem, it is not the only reason why COVID-19 is such a severe risk to every person in Canada.
With the right level of preparedness, the Canadian government should have contained the high risk of infection. It should have better protected the lives of the elderly or vulnerable. It should have managed a situation where the availability of a vaccine was not the only solution.
Was Canada Prepared for a Pandemic?
The short answer is no.
A government in today’s globalized world must recognize that pandemics are a real risk. After the SARS outbreak in 2002, health experts urged governments to plan for such outbreaks.
Dr. Osterholm, a world-renowned and respected infectious disease expert, said governments should have prepared for a situation that could last between 1 and 3 years.
Sadly, none of the world’s governments even took the basic threat of pandemics seriously. Most of the “powerful nations” such as China, Italy and the US were not even minimally prepared, despite the warnings of health experts since the SARS outbreak in 2002, which was almost 20 years before!
Even worse, the governments unlearned everything from the SARS experience. For example, Ontario had a reserve of 55 million N95 masks. But after the old N95 masks expired, the province of Ontario refused to renew its stock with new ones. Why? To save $3 million a year in storage costs. Clearly placing profits before people lives.
If the secular-Capitalist governments of today had cared even in the least about their health workers and citizens, they would not have made such a massive sacrifice for very little in return. Any government which is concerned about managing the affairs of the people with justice would have spent the highest premium on the health of their public.
They would have kept ample reserves of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and other essentials for not just weeks at a time, but for years!
To manage a pandemic, a just nation would have built a large stockpile of testing kits. They would also have a system to test hundreds of thousands of people in weeks, not months. To speed-up the testing process, they would have also had local labs to identify the virus (genome sequencing).
They would have also produced the PPE-testing kits locally. Doing so would have prevented interruptions in the supply, and Canada would not have had to compete with other countries for those essentials.
Finally, they would have not delayed closing the border to non-citizens and restricted travel much earlier. Canada should have tested all recent home bound travelers and anyone with symptoms as well as the people they came into contact with, even if the latter lack any of the symptoms of COVID-19. In other words, implement a contact-tracing program.
With contact-tracing, Canada would have been able to cut off the virus’ spread by finding and quarantining anyone who may have come into contact with it (either directly via travel or symptoms, or indirectly by interacting with people with symptoms and/or recent travelers).
Vo, a town in Italy, implemented contact-tracing right from the beginning. It succeeded in containing the virus because it had done “extensive testing of both symptomatic individuals and all of their social contacts – including relatives, friends and neighbours.”
Canada, on the other hand, did not have enough testing kits to conduct contact-tracing. Canada still does not have such a capacity, but it is looking to reopen society sooner rather than later. Countries reopening without a contact tracing program ready are at risk of suffering from a second wave.
Ironically, due to its lack of preparedness, Canada will spend $73 billion on its various wage subsidy programs. This was a result of having to force the country into lockdown to slow the spread of the virus. Now, 2 million Canadians have lost their jobs, and the economy is at a standstill.
To avoid paying more subsidies, the various governments in Canada are desperately looking to make the economy active again with little regard for the health of the public. This way, from the perspective of these governments, people could return to work and rely less on subsidies, and the large corporations (such as the airlines) can start generating their revenues again.
The truth about today’s governments, especially in the Capitalist world, is that they are accountable to the Capitalist elite, and no one else. Therefore, countries such as the United States will not prioritize healthcare spending over, say, tax-breaks for the wealthy or funding its bloody wars and supporting agents and tyrants in the Muslim lands.
Why Only the Khilafah Will Care for the People?
While on the face of it, governments around the world can claim that they care for the affairs of the people, but only the Khilafah can prove it by showing how Islam, and its ideology (aqeedah), requires it. Islam requires that the Khilafah guarantee that every single citizen in its lands,
Muslims and non-Muslims, live a life of dignity and tranquility. The Prophet Muhammad (saw) said:
“There is no right for the son of Adam other than these things: a house in which he lives, a garment to cover his nakedness, a piece of bread, and water.” [Tirmdhi]
For the Khilafah, eliminating the risk to human life is a top priority. A society ruled by Islam would have recognized that it is its legal duty to take the first reports of an epidemic in China extremely seriously, as opposed to keeping free flowing borders open.
It would have stopped all travel to and from China early on, as a matter of policy legislated by the hadith:
“If you get wind of the outbreak of plague in a land, do not enter it; and if it breaks out in a land in which you are, do not leave it.” [al-Bukhari]
The fact is, Canada did not wish to shut its borders to China immediately because, like most countries, it relies on China to produce and supply consumer goods, as well such an action would have severely disrupted the supply chain for its various industries.
The Khilafah would prevent this beforehand by gearing its industry to locally manufacture all necessary goods, and not relying on any other country. The Khilfah would structure the economy for self-sufficiency.
The Khilafah would have closed its borders to China in the month of December or January, instead of putting the lives of citizens in jeopardy like many Capitalist nations did.
The Khilafah would also set-up an extensive infection testing network. So, it would maintain enough testing kits as well as manufacture them in large quantities locally. It would also maintain an extensive public health network to rapidly test people en masse and use contact-tracing to quarantine all those at risk of infection.
If certain areas flare up with infections, the Khilafah would lock those areas down so that no one leaves or enters. But it would also ensure that those areas get ample supplies to care for their people.
While aggressively containing the virus, the Khilafah would also work on creating its own vaccine and building the capability to produce it and deploy it rapidly.
If, despite these measures, Allah (swt) wills that the disease spreads throughout the society, the Khilafah would stand-out in its support of the people.
The Ummah can have the Khilafah direct publicly owned resources – such as oil and gas revenues – to fund stipends for those without work, healthcare/treatment, and other support. The Khilafah would not force the people to repay these programs through taxation and future price and asset inflation.
Ultimately, the solution to containing the spread of COVID 19, and other pandemics, requires more than one or two policies. It requires a government that fears Allah (swt) and will be questioned about its actions in the Hereafter.
Today, the governments of the Capitalist world are concerned with the “bottom line”- namely profit. They are accountable to the Capitalist elite, not the public. In Islam, the Khilafah is worried about its scale on the Day of Judgment, so it must obey the commands of Allah (swt). If not, it must answer to the Ummah.
May Allah bring back the Khilafah as a shining example for the world on how to prevent the suffering of the people of the world.