Michael TaubeCOVID-19 has been part of our lives for what feels like an eternity – and then some.

The starting point remains a bit sketchy, truth be told.

It officially began when China first reported people exhibiting pneumonia-like symptoms at the Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market in Wuhan City on Dec. 31, 2019.

A World Health Organization (WHO) investigation has since suggested up to 90 people were hospitalized in Wuhan in November and December 2019 with similar symptoms.

A Harvard University study also noted an “upward trend in hospital traffic and search volume” in Wuhan in the late summer and early fall of 2019.


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The National Cancer Institute in Milan, Italy, even discovered that four coronavirus cases in the country dated back to October 2019. This would coincide with individual reports that Canada, the U.S. and other countries unknowingly had early cases, too.

Hence, COVID-19 could have started in China long before the last day of 2019. We may never know for sure.

What we do know is WHO declared the outbreak a public health emergency of international concern on Jan. 30, 2020. This quickly shifted to a pandemic on March 11.

That has led to lockdowns, stay-at-home orders, self-isolation tactics, families and friends being separated for months, social distancing of various degrees (depending on the country), washing your hands, closing non-essential businesses, shifting from indoor dining at restaurants to outdoor dining experiments and takeaway services, shutting down sports and limiting audiences to a bare minimum, trillions of dollars spent in emergency relief programs, the highs and lows of vaccination plans, and so on.

The good news is that COVID-19 will eventually reach a conclusion.

Canada and most democratic nations will be as fully vaccinated as possible by the end of 2021. Various countries in Africa, Latin America and Asia may not reach this point until 2022, 2023 or 2024. Remote parts of the world could remain an issue for years.

Some people (around 20 to 25 per cent) either can’t or won’t be vaccinated. This would have been taken care of by achieving herd immunity, as has usually been the case with pandemics throughout human history. Unfortunately, some medical professionals are beginning to suggest it may be impossible to accomplish this with COVID-19.

Nature’s Christie Aschwanden wrote on March 18 that independent data scientist Youyang Gu “changed the name of his popular COVID-19 forecasting model from ‘Path to Herd Immunity’ to ‘Path to Normality.’” In Gu’s analysis, “reaching a herd-immunity threshold was looking unlikely because of factors such as vaccine hesitancy, the emergence of new variants and the delayed arrival of vaccinations for children.”

Based on the aggressiveness of B.1.617.2, the Indian variant, there may be a point to this.

Anyone who believes the world will revert completely back to normal when the main thrust of COVID-19 is over is fooling themselves, however. Many things will return to the ‘new normal,’ but some things will change – and, in certain cases, for the better.

People will likely continue to cook more often at home. Delivery services for restaurants and grocery stores will be enhanced. Online shopping will increase multifold. Virtual learning still needs additional tinkering but will likely be maintained and improved for future generations of students.

Here’s something else I hope stays after COVID-19 is over: virtual medical appointments.

My wife and I recently experienced this with our son. He developed a fairly minor medical issue last weekend, and we decided to see if any walk-in clinics were open to get it looked at. Most were closed, which isn’t terribly surprising right now.

We found one that was open but was only taking virtual appointments. We were sent a digital form and filled everything out. An appointment was set within 10 minutes of the phone call. The doctor was right on schedule and able to look at our son on the computer screen. She prescribed an ointment that the clinic immediately took care of by sending the request to our regular pharmacy. I was able to pick it up about 20 minutes after everything was said and done.

My son is getting better and we didn’t have to physically go to a clinic to help him.

The Canadian health-care system is costly, ineffective and badly overburdened. Virtual medical appointments are a fantastic solution for minor and moderate issues and a real-time saver for medical practitioners and patients and their families.

If our country can keep this particular technique for an eternity – and then some – that will be one positive change that came out of this terrible pandemic.

Michael Taube, a Troy Media syndicated columnist and Washington Times contributor, was a speechwriter for former prime minister Stephen Harper. He holds a master’s degree in comparative politics from the London School of Economics. For interview requests, click here.


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