Diane Francis: End the lockdown immediately — but protect the vulnerable – USA DAILY NEWS

Diane Francis: End the lockdown immediately — but protect the vulnerable

A COVID-19 vaccine is at least a year away, but the current treatment for the disease — the lockdown — must end immediately. However, any exit strategy will only be effective if it’s targeted and based on known data about the disease and the demographics that are most vulnerable to it.

The facts dictate that the best course of action would be to reopen the economy, while continuing to isolate those over the age of 65 and people who have underlying health conditions. To continue to put the entire economy on hold until there is a vaccine will cause a financial collapse worse than the 2008-09 recession, which took trillions of dollars and five years to “cure.”

This will place a heavy burden on the older generation, which is, frankly, my own cohort. But just as youth have had to go to war to save their elders, the reverse is true this time.

Seniors who need to work or need financial help must be assisted, so that the rest of society doesn’t have to be. Seniors should be set up, wherever possible, to work from home if they can. Seniors who need assistance in order to stay isolated, in terms of food preparation and other care, must be propped up with these resources. And nursing homes must be revamped to reduce the spread of diseases.

The reality is that the vast majority of people under 65, and virtually everyone under 50, will be no more inconvenienced by COVID-19 than by a cold. That’s why they must be allowed to work, socialize, volunteer and attend school. Even then, there are risks: new outbreaks may occur, but fortunately, in Canada, provincial health-care systems have not been overwhelmed. (This is unlike the United States, where its impoverished population of tens of millions intersects with the developed world’s worst health-care system.)

Ironically, Quebec has the most aggressive plan to reopen, but without proper targeting based on sound scientific criteria. This haste is strange considering that Quebec’s infection rates are four times higher than the Canadian average — likely due to its massive regulatory incompetence involving medical care in nursing homes. Quebec’s plan to reopen without isolating its elderly and vulnerable is therefore foolish.

Some argue that the initial mass lockdowns were a mistake, but they were prudent in the absence of any warning or understanding of this viral assault. However, to continue to sustain a full lockdown will be a gigantic mistake, and will shutter half the country’s businesses and eviscerate millions of jobs. Conversely, unfettered re-openings would also be a gigantic mistake.

Here are the facts: as of last month in Canada, 90 per cent of COVID-19 deaths were people who were more than 60 years of age, but the lion’s share were older than 75 years and living in close proximity to one another in nursing homes, where viruses always spread like wildfire.

The worst-hit city in North America, New York, broke down its death toll demographically: as of April 14, there were 6,839 fatalities and nearly 75 per cent were more than 65 years of age. Of that cohort, half were more than 75 years old and 22 per cent were between 65 and 74. Most had heart disease, cancer, diabetes or other chronic conditions.

There is another advance on the horizon during this pre-vaccine period: an at-home test kit, using saliva, has just been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. This would hold infection rates in check by allowing individuals to monitor themselves and self-isolate or seek medical attention immediately.

In the meantime, however, countries should end the lockdowns for those who are less at risk from this disease. Unless that happens, the lockdown cure will become far, far worse than the disease.

Financial Post