A free-for-all

Written by Brenda Schimke

After listening to and reading Dr. Deena Hinshaw’s many talking points, she seems to be basing her ‘free-for-all’ day (August 16) on what’s happened in Britain since their ‘freedom’ day (July 12), and on her department’s budget constraints.

There are glaring problems with her approach, the first being false equivalency. Britain’s ‘freedom’ day freed citizens from social distancing, indoor capacity limits and masking requirements. It did not free individuals from testing, tracing and isolation protocols. 

The National Health Service’s (NHS’s) webpage, clearly states, “it is a legal requirement to self-isolate if you are told by NHS Test and Trace. You will be fined if you do not self isolate.”

After ‘freedom’ day, British citizens with COVID symptoms are still required to stay home and be tested. If they test positive for COVID-19, someone they live with has symptoms or tested positive for COVID-19, or they’ve been in contact with someone who tested positive, they must self-isolate.

In Alberta, we get personal choice in all those scenarios. Notwithstanding, a preponderance of research consistently finds if a legal requirement, more people will follow good societal behaviour than if a personal choice.

Britain hasn’t stopped testing and contact tracing. Their public health officials, as do all other public health officials in the world, acknowledge the most effective way to live with COVID, other than having 80+ per cent of the population across all age groups fully vaccinated, is the early identification and quick response to community outbreaks. A feat only achieved with data from robust testing and tracing protocols.

It is disappointing that Hinshaw refuses to release her oft-quoted ‘evidence-based modelling’.

The NHS in Britain, like Canada’s Public Health Agency, regularly releases to the public their modelling and assumptions, and in Canada our top docs always set aside a large block of time for media questions directly after their presentation.

Alberta’s ‘free-for-all’ day goes much further than Britain’s ‘freedom’ day.

Then there’s the money! Hinshaw is always bringing the conversation back to money. Seems her department is so under-resourced, that they are unable to deal with COVID and other public health outbreaks concurrently.

Yet notably, neither Canada’s top public health official, Dr. Theresa Tam, nor Britain’s Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Chris Whitty, have ever made the argument that a lack of resources would drive their public health recommendations.

Rather than using Britain’s two-week surge in COVID cases after ‘freedom’ day and then two weeks of sharply declining cases, Dr. Hinshaw should note that neither Prime Minister Johnson nor Dr. Whitty have declared COVID over, taken a bow, or re-classified COVID as a mild respiratory disease. They learned the lesson, COVID does not follow a political agenda—what’s promising today, can go very wrong tomorrow.

Most Albertans, and even many experts, I suspect, could have been happy with a British ‘freedom’ day, but Hinshaw’s “free-for-all” day is bizarre. She has essentially abandoned 1.9 million unvaccinated Albertans, including 656,000 children under 12, and thousands of businesses, charities, schools and community events that are trying to get back on their feet.

I know Premier Kenney thrives on being first at everything, but being first isn’t always best. 

To be first in the world to declare COVID a mild respiratory inflection, and to be first in the world to discount the need for COVID testing, tracing and isolation seems silly. Especially since these decisions were made by the same people, Dr. Hinshaw and her team, who created the modelling ‘evidence’ and then refused to make it public. 

Hinshaw’s opinion pieces and press releases were unconvincing. That Dr. Hinshaw has two children under 12 isn’t relevant, but the assumptions used to develop her ‘secret’ modelling evidence are very relevant.


Brenda Schimke

ECA Review

About the author

Brenda Schimke

Schimke is a Graduate with Distinction from the University of Alberta with a BCom degree. She has lived and worked in Alberta, BC and Ontario.