Thursday, May 13, 2021
Commentary

Seemingly arbitrary COVID-19 restrictions do more harm than good

If business owners aren’t being made whole, restrictions at least need to make sense

By Kristy Koehler , January 22 2021—

I took a stroll through Calgary’s Mission neighbourhood yesterday and, while wandering past “For Lease” signs and shuttered businesses along the once-vibrant 4th Avenue, I couldn’t help but notice how little sense COVID-19 restrictions actually make.

I stood outside of a manicure shop and watched a patron, separated from the esthetician only by a piece of plexiglass, get her nails done. Yet I saw several restaurants, with tables spaced six feet apart, both plexiglass and distance separating them, closed for business as a result of the Government of Alberta’s pandemic restrictions. If I were to go out for breakfast, a server would be at my table for less than a minute during every interaction, from taking my order, to dropping it off and then bringing the check. As a frequent customer of nail shops, I know a manicure service or acrylic nail application takes far longer. So why are restaurants closed while personal services remain open?

I couldn’t wrap my head around the logic behind that, and quite frankly, the rationality behind several other restrictions escapes me too.

Tattoo shops have artists working in close proximity to patrons, but you can’t sit down at a well-distanced table and have an Americano at your local coffee shop. Speaking of coffee shops, at one establishment I saw a sign tacked to their outdoor benches stating that their use is prohibited because they’re considered part of the cafe’s seating, but nearby, several people sat in close proximity at a bus stop.

Until Jan. 18, you’d have had to go to a doctor and wait in a room full of sick people, wasting the time of a supposedly much-needed and overworked medical professional, to get a permission slip for a massage. But, you could easily book an appointment with a chiropractor or physiotherapist who often works out of the same office space as a massage therapist.

One-on-one personal training can take place at a client’s home, but not in a fitness studio or gym, even if the doors are closed and there’s no one else around. 

The library is closed but there are dozens of teenagers in various states of mask-wearing, hanging out in the green spaces at the local high schools before, after and in-between classes.

You can’t have another couple over to your house for a dinner date, but you can have a housekeeper come over to clean your place, even if they’ve been at five other houses that day. 

You can, as of Jan. 18, attend a small wedding ceremony. The bride can get her makeup and hair done, but she can’t have a sit-down, socially-distanced dinner reception.

Personal services are allowed by appointment only, but you can drive up to the front door and make that appointment in your car from your smartphone.

In Ontario, ski hills are closed, but in Alberta, they’ve received an exemption to allow skiers to eat food they’ve purchased or brought with them in a common area, stopping just short of table service.

A bizarre stay-at-home order is also in force in Ontario. Small shops are unable to facilitate curbside pickup or contactless at-home delivery after 8 p.m. yet Amazon can bring packages directly to your home until much later.

In Manitoba, small retail shops were forced to close in November, but big box retailers were allowed to stay open if they were sellers of essential goods. Independent florists were closed but you could still get flowers at Costco. An attempt to rectify the situation saw these big box stores forced to stop the sale of non-essential goods. So, if you were already in Wal-Mart for groceries, you couldn’t head to one of the other aisles to grab a Christmas gift. Instead of spreading out throughout the store while browsing for other items, shoppers were funneled into the grocery aisles. 

Let’s be clear — COVID-19 is very real. It spreads quickly and produces disastrous medical outcomes for people of all ages. If wearing masks does indeed stop the spread of this awful virus and reduces the strain on our beleaguered healthcare system, then we have a responsibility to one another, to our most vulnerable and to society at large, to accept this very minor inconvenience and mask up when we’re out and about. 

I’m certainly not arguing for throwing the doors wide open and ignoring the virus, and I don’t think the majority of people are either. Not everyone upset by these seemingly arbitrary restrictions is a COVID-denier or anti-masker. They’re regular folks who want to open their businesses and don’t understand why they can’t. They’re begging for the government to make some sense, and right now they don’t. 

People need to know that they’re sacrificing for a greater good, but right now it seems that legislators are making it up as they go. Nonsensical restrictions would perhaps be tolerable if people were being made financially whole, but the supports aren’t there to justify livelihoods being put into jeopardy at the whim of politicians. 

Failing to provide restrictions that make sense to people is contributing to pandemic fatigue, eroding public trust and leading to more skepticism. Governments, particularly in Alberta, Ontario and Manitoba, just haven’t been able to get it right and it’s hurting more than it’s helping.

 

This article constitutes the opinion of the author.

 

Photo courtesy Queven // Pixabay

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