Study says while Canada has done a better job than other countries in dealing with COVID-19, its death rate still exceeds that of similar countries
After COVID-19 was declared a pandemic by the World Health Organization, the number of cases started to rise around the world. It is difficult to apply a universal interpretation of why some states have experienced a higher number of infections while others have kept theirs under control.
For example, Greece’s success in containing the virus has been attributed to its strict lockdown measures, Germany’s lower death rate was linked to its well-developed healthcare system, while South Korea has been praised for its extensive testing.
In Canada, the lack of preventive public health policies and the resulting difficulties in dealing with the health effects of the pandemic have been criticized. Even when a large-scale testing infrastructure was put in place, testing rates remained low.
Different degrees of government intervention
Broadly speaking, there are three types of welfare states among Western democracies: social democratic, liberal and conservative or corporatist. These tend to be characterized by varying degrees of government intervention, universal or selective benefit schemes, and different levels of social protection.
Liberal regimes include the states of Canada, the United States, Ireland, the United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand and Japan, the only non-Western liberal state. The northern European region encompasses the social democratic states of Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Finland, Iceland and the Netherlands. And continental Europe includes the so-called conservative or corporate states: Italy, Greece, France, Germany, Austria, Switzerland and Belgium.
On the number of cases per million and the number of deaths per million – the only two variables that can illustrate the divergent testing approaches taken by individual nations – it appears that Canada is doing better than conservative states in Europe. continental (Spain, Belgium, Switzerland or Italy) and even better than some social democratic nations (Iceland, Sweden and the Netherlands).
However, when comparing Canada to similar liberal democracies, the country ranks third in terms of the number of cases per million population (2,753). It is only surpassed by Ireland (5,156), the United Kingdom (4,595) and the United States (7,774), and is well below Australia (307), New -Zeeland (244) and Japan (148).
This pattern is the same for the number of deaths per million. With 227 deaths per million, Canada fares better than the United Kingdom (382), Ireland (351) and the United States (382), but it does poorly compared to Japan (7 , 7), New Zealand (4.5) and Australia (4.1).
Canada’s death rate is actually 29 times that of Japan, 50 times that of New Zealand, and 55 times that of Australia.
In the UK, the high number of cases and deaths could be attributed to the government’s reluctance to implement lockdown measures and, in the US, to the way government officials, including President Donald Trump, have consistently downplayed the severity of the pandemic.
Yet these reasons do not apply to Canada, where strict lockdown measures have been implemented.
In March, Canada closed its borders to all foreign nationals and most provinces imposed strict physical distancing measures.
The rise of neoliberalism at stake?
The results could be interpreted as a consequence of the rise of neoliberalism in the country. The past three decades have been characterized by government cuts, declining public spending, deregulation and policies focused on limited state intervention.
The 1996 Canada Health and Social Transfer merged federal funding for health, education and social assistance, reducing it to what was originally allocated for social assistance only.
In 2017, federal cuts to health care funding resulted in an estimated deficit of $ 31 billion.
Such changes have been criticized for weakening the ability of the federal government to ensure that provinces comply with national principles of providing adequate health care to their citizens.
Take the example of the provincial screening laboratory in Windsor, Ontario, which tested for tuberculosis and West Nile virus. It was built in 1966, during the heyday of the Canadian welfare state, to serve Windsor-Essex in southwestern Ontario.
Despite public outcry, the lab was demolished in 2010 to make way for a new highway. The test samples must now be shipped to London or Hamilton for analysis. Health experts pointed out that the facility could have performed testing for COVID-19 and somewhat reduced low testing rates in the region. Only 2.5% of the local Windsor-Essex population had been tested as of May 2020.
Long-term care homes at the epicenter
Another possible explanation for the higher death and infection rates in Canada lies in long-term residential facilities. About 82% of deaths from COVID-19 in Canada have occurred in long-term care homes.
A report released by the International Long-Term Care Policy Network found that among 14 countries, Canada has recorded the highest number of nursing home deaths. In Australia, a comparable liberal state, deaths in long-term care homes only accounted for 25% of the country’s COVID-19 death rates.
Canada has a universal health care system, but health care gaps are common. Long-term care, for example, relies heavily on the private sector to provide services.
In 1996, the Conservative government removed regulations requiring a minimum of one registered nurse to be on duty at all times and the allocation of a minimum of 2.25 hours of daily nursing care per resident.
In Ontario in the 1990s, the government of Mike Harris increased the number of private sector nursing home beds. The huge sums spent on elderly care have been funneled to private shareholders.
Harris is now President of Chartwell Corp., one of the province’s largest for-profit senior care providers and a company that has spent $ 845 million over the past 10 years on executive compensation and dividends. shareholders.
While more research into the relationship between COVID-19 numbers and welfare state systems is needed, it is clear that Canada needs to do a lot more to address pandemics now and in the future.
Raluca Bejan, Assistant Professor of Social Work, Dalhousie University and Kristina Nikolova, Assistant Research Professor, Wayne State University
This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.