Coronavirus causing chaos across Canada
By Charlie Hodge.
Akin to the proverbial thorn in the lion’s paw, a sneaky little virus, allegedly out of East, has put the planet on a health tilt many fear may have horrendous results before vanquished. Many predict novel coronavirus (COVID-19) will create havoc more damaging than the economic plunge of 2008, with some experts suggesting the negative ramifications of the rapidly spreading disease could be cataclysmic. Certainly, aside from economical damage, this health storm cloud kills people.
“Mark my words this is going to be crippling in many ways,” Michael said, slowly and effectively lowering his glass while pontificating his perspective. “This (virus) is going to be devastating not just for Canada but around the planet. It’s already having significant impacts on so many aspects of our life and it’s just started.”
Michael’s warning words halted me for a minute. I’d been busy worrying about my efforts chasing down book publishers, the idiosyncrasies of being a City councillor, and my sudden emergency run on replacing mandatory household items such as a furnace, air conditioner, and flooding washing machine. I’d been far to self-absorbed to seriously contemplate the latest disease. In my mind it was simply yet another bug I needed to avoid considering my greatly compromised immune system.
Yet Michael had actually bored a hurting hole in my headspace. The more I listened the more I recognized he was not being just an Eyore or doomsday prophet. My eyes had finally opened to the threat.
Less than a week since that conversation and impacts and spinoffs of the coronavirus have captivated the news. Indications suggest indeed we are just at the tip of this potential iceberg.
On Wednesday Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced forming a special Cabinet Committee to deal with the disease. Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland will chair the committee which will include Health Minister Patty Hajdu. (Exactly what the committee will do, of course, is not known). By Wednesday 33 cases of coronavirus were already identified in Canada.
The viruses rippling, some say crippling, effects on business and pleasure appear everywhere. Clearly the tourism industry is already clobbered by travel bans and cross continent paranoia.
Here in Kelowna businesses are asking employees to cancel trips abroad or insisting on quarantines for those returning from trips to certain locations. Okanagan Mission Secondary School cancelled a band trip to Europe set for this month. The Province of B.C. and Provincial Health Officer Bonnie Henry are recommending other schools cancel or postpone trips overseas during the March school break.
Despite U.S. President Trump’s bizarre suggestion the virus is not an issue, the U.S. Federal Reserve cut its benchmark interest rate by a impactful half-percentage point Tuesday as a reactive effort to support the economy in response to the virus and its suspected economic bowling ball effect. It marks the first time the central bank has cut its key rate (between policy meetings) and the largest rate cut since the 2008 . The move apparently worked as the Stock market averages (which tumbled after the opening bell), bounced back nearly 700 points according to reports Wednesday.
Meanwhile world-wide worries continue. Members of the G-7 (Canada, United States, Japan, Germany, Britain, France and Italy) announced they were prepared to, “Take action, including fiscal measures where appropriate, to aid in the response to the virus and support the economy.” Whatever that means remains to be seen.
Ironically all the negative news means a glint of positive for some. The Bank of Canada is cutting its key interest rate target half a percentage point, dropping it to 1.25 per cent in response to the economic shock of the disease and other circumstances. The bank admitted it’s clear the Canadian economy won’t grow as much as previously forecasted for the first quarter of this year claiming, “disrupted supply chains and rattled business and consumer confidence as well as rail line blockades, job action by Ontario teachers and harsh winter weather,” as contributors.
The statement also said the central bank may further adjust its key rate if the situation calls for it. The cut in the bank’s key rate is the first since the summer of 2015 and brings the rate to a level it hasn’t been at since early 2018.
Based on the overall grey economic forecast ahead I suggest we squeeze whatever small joys we can find in the not so lovely scenario. I’m hoping for an early, sunny spring to warm our hearts and stimulate some smiles.
In addition, as much as I enjoy quaffing a cold one with Michael once in a while – I hesitate on another gathering in the near future. I’m still reeling from his latest reality check.