Opening Soon?

When will campgrounds in Ontario open for the season? For us it will be tomorrow. After staying five weeks at a closed for business motorhome dealership, we make our way to our site for the next six months. Our park will only open for full-timers, typically retired Canadian Snowbirds without a permanent address. We expect to see about ten couples when we arrive tomorrow. The rest of the park will remain closed.

Will the park open for seasonal campers? Not now. Will the park open for recreational campers? Not now.

When?

That is a common question regarding all the businesses that are currently closed in the province.

Government officials are pretty much making things up as they go along. This pandemic is global in scope and potentially severe in impact. It is not clear how countries should proceed in reopening their economies. The Canadian government had drawn up plans in terms of what to do in the event of a pandemic although one could argue that those plans were largely ignored in favour of following the guidance from the World Health Organization. But did the Canadian government have a plan on what to do after they shutdown the country?

The unwinding of current measures is likely to be gradual, tentative, and occur in fits and starts. And while the earliest stage of fighting the pandemic has featured a high degree of political, regional, intradisciplinary and public consensus about the need for strict lockdown measures, the next one could prove to be more fractious, as governments are confronted with a wider slate of options on how to proceed – not just when to begin reopening the economy, but what sectors and activities to prioritize as the process begins.

In other words, governments, Federal, Provincial, Municipal, do not have a plan to reopen. Further along in the same article:

“In a way, just closing everything down was probably easy compared to what we have to do now,” says Beate Sander, a specialist in health economics with the University Health Network in Toronto.

Easy to shutdown. Hard to reopen.

The Ontario government released a document outlining a framework to reopen. You can read it here.

This is the overview of how Ontario intends to proceed:

Reopening our province
Based on the advice of the Chief Medical Officer of Health and health experts, we will take a gradual, thoughtful approach to loosening emergency conditions and reopening the economy based on the following principles:

Responsible
Guided by public health advice to protect the people of Ontario, especially those who are most vulnerable and at high-risk, would continue to be paramount and guide an incremental approach.

Evidence-informed
All provincial, regional and sectoral actions would be informed by public health data, defined criteria and consistent measures.

Resourced
Sufficient health system capacity to respond to any new outbreaks of COVID‑19 would be required to protect health care workers and the public, and to maintain the regular health care system.

Monitored
A timely and rigorous testing process as well as fast case and contact tracing must be in place.

Responsive and effective
Based on health capacity, safety and economic needs, measures could be introduced quickly.

Clear
Plans and responsibilities for individuals, employers and the health care system would be clear and ready to implement.

And so I await the government’s decision on what might happen next. I’m not expecting campgrounds in Ontario to open up anytime soon. And when they do they will face a lengthy list of restrictions. Consider what is being proposed for restaurants in British Columbia.

Temperature checks for guests and staff, masks and gloves for front-of-house workers and plexiglass between booths.

Those are a few of the proposals from industry that could see British Columbia restaurant dining look very different once strict COVID-19 restrictions begin to ease up.

B.C. Restaurant and Foodservices Association president Ian Tostenson said his organization is now submitting a suite of such measures, developed in consultation with industry leaders, to government.

Other ideas in the plan include slashing restaurant seating by 50 per cent and requiring guests to stay two metres apart, capping group sizes, adding hand sanitizing stations and putting up barriers between guests and bartenders. Limiting guests to an hour in the restaurant and boosting outdoor patio capacity are also being floated.

If those are the requirements for a restaurant to reopen, what might the requirements be for a campground to reopen? Temperature checks? Barriers between campsites to enforce social distancing? No walking in the campground to limit social interaction? Reducing capacity in half? Verifying and limiting guests to one household per site?

My sense is that the next few months ahead will be tumultuous and filled with uncertainty for many of us.

This is the second time in my life that I have lived under a form of martial law in Canada. The first time was during the FLQ crisis in 1970.

On October 16, 1970 Canada’s Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau’s father, invoked the War Measures Act, which suspended basic civil rights and liberties. It allowed police searches and arrests without warrants, and prolonged detentions without charges and without the right to see a lawyer. It was the first time in Canadian history the Act was used during peacetime. And it was invoked to contain the violent actions of the FLQ, a group believed to be a major paramilitary organization.

How major?

Several years later, after extensive investigation, it became apparent that the FLQ was not a major paramilitary organization. It was an informal group, organized in small, autonomous cells, whose members dreamed of a separate and socialist Quebec. At the time of the October Crisis, the group had no more than thirty-five members.

The FLQ ceased activities in 1971.

Today we have a different form of martial law. We don’t call it martial law. Stay at home sounds less militaristic, less autocratic. I do not recall a vote being held in Parliament to close down our country. It happened by decree.

Because we believe that the risk of COVID-19 to society is a major risk.

The War Measures Act was renamed to the Emergencies Act. Our federal government is giving active consideration to invoking the act.

The federal government is reaching out to the provinces and territories to talk about invoking the never-used-before Emergencies Act, as pressure mounts on Ottawa to take control of critical medical supplies and equipment in the fight against COVID-19.

The Emergencies Act — which came into effect in 1988 —  gives the federal government sweeping powers to regulate or prohibit travel, requisition and use property, order qualified people to provide essential services, regulate the distribution of goods, resources and services and establish emergency shelters and hospitals.

What happens over the next few months is unknown. Anything could happen.

Making any plans to travel with an RV seems rather pointless right now. Too many unknowns. Best to stay home. Wherever that might be.

Keep safe.

Keep healthy.

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