COVID-19

Quebec prepares to live with COVID-19

Despite palpable concern from the hospital network, authorities appear to be relying more on individual responsibility than collective repression to cross the wave raised by Omicron, a shift in approach applauded by many.

“We will have to learn to live with the virus,” Health Minister Christian Dubé wrote on Facebook on 3 September. On Tuesday, it was a “paradigm shift,” he announced: soon, workers with COVID-19 could go back to the floor, as long as they are asymptomatic.

A tolerance to the virus that contrasts with the measures that were in force on the same date last year. On December 29, 2020, Quebec recorded 2,381 new cases, non-essential businesses remained closed, and no indoor meetings were allowed. The hospitals had 1,124 hospitalizations, including 150 in intensive care.

As of Wednesday, the coronavirus infected more than 13,000 Quebecers and 804 people were hospitalized, including 122 in intensive care. Despite the situation, six people can still meet indoors, restaurants have capacity for half their capacity, and non-essential businesses have yet to limit their clientele.

“This change is timely,” said François Audet, director of the Montreal Institute for International Studies. “There is no such thing as a lasting crisis: while it lasts, it becomes the norm. “

According to this former humanitarian used to political and social crises, it is obvious that the planet will not be able, in the short term, to eradicate COVID. “Now we must learn to live with that,” says the professor from the UQAM Faculty of Administration.

“It is contradictory to normalize outbreaks, hospitalizations and deaths,” acknowledges François Audet. However, the threat of a pandemic must be “internalized in the management of public life”.

There is no such thing as a lasting crisis – while it lasts, it becomes the norm

“It does not mean to stop worrying and be alert,” he says. We must continue with the barrier gestures, continue to disinfect our hands and keep our distance. Maintaining these new standards is what will get us out of this situation. “

Since the Spanish flu

A century ago, there were few collective restrictions to curb the Spanish flu. “The answer was based more on individual responsibility,” explains Denis Goulet, medical historian and author of A Brief History of Epidemics in Quebec. “For 21 months, it has been a unique period for the imposition of such severe measures. This is unprecedented in modern Quebec history. “

According to his studies, the people of 1918 voluntarily agreed to comply with the limitations imposed by the municipal public health offices. “At the time, records show that parents often ordered children not to take health precautions. For them, it was unacceptable that the recklessness of young people compromised public health. “

Even today, Denis Goulet believes that Quebecers can agree to restrict their individual freedom in the name of the collective well-being.

“In certain cultures of social democratic obedience, it is a very forceful approach, describes the historian. In the Scandinavian countries, for example, the common welfare prevails over personal freedoms. These are values ​​instilled in children very early. “

Quebec and its tradition of social democracy “are part of that culture, with group programs like health insurance,” adds Mr. Goulet. However, he points out that an “Americanization” of Quebec society is increasingly shaking the social consensus of the past and that Uncle Sam-style individualism taints Quebecers’ relationship with the community.

A responsibility already acquired

Others, even within the hospital system, congratulate the government for empowering people.

“I, I am very, very proud that the debate is moving into the field of individual responsibilities,” said Dr. Mathieu Simon on December 23, the day after the press conference during which the Prime Minister asked Quebecers to limit their contacts at least. for the holiday season.

The head of the department of intensive care at the University Institute of Cardiology and Pulmonology of Quebec draws a parallel with the behavior of Quebecers in the face of other diseases. “If you have viral gastroenteritis, you don’t invite 12 people to the table to share a turkey […] The Prime Minister and Dr. Arruda are not expected to tell us what to do about the infections that are more common. “

According to him, Quebecers understand that individualistic logic leads to a dead end.

“The way to do it is not to project yourself and say to yourself, ‘This is going to be a disaster.’ It is saying to yourself: “Okay, I am a responsible citizen, I will think with my head and heart, not only about my little personal freedom, but how I can help preserve these freedoms so that ‘they don’t belong to me, but to the whole community “.”

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