Editor's Note: Today, two articles – rather than the usual one – are posted for Uncle Gnarley readers. This one contains a letter written by frequent contributor, David Vardy, to Premier Dwight Ball containing a series of 12 recommendations intended to promote an “all-of-government” approach to combating spread of the COVID-19 virus threatening this province. Recommendation #12, which encourages Government to act to increase the number of people who stay at home, is especially poignant; it is this theme about which PlanetNL has also written. His article is entitled "Courting Disaster With Half-Measured Hypocrisy Against COVID-19". Both pieces rely on an Australian study described in the following Link: Data shows coronavirus can only be controlled if 8 out of 10 Australians stay home. The Report is based upon simulation studies which conclude that physical distancing requires 80 per cent compliance in order to stop the spread of the virus. The failure by our Government to require closure of construction, mining and other heavy industries, likely makes such a target unattainable. I would be grateful if you liked/shared both pieces on social media and, otherwise, you are welcome to send them to people whom you know are connected with those sectors. – Des Sullivan
March 25, 2020
Premier Dwight Ball
Office of the Premier
Subject: Governing in the Age of Coronavirus
I am writing as a former senior public servant and as a citizen committed to an effective response to the coronavirus pandemic. It is clear from my 30 years as a senior public sector executive that an all-of-government approach must be guided and informed by strong citizen participation, combined with non-partisan leadership. Clearly the pandemic threatens the health and safety of our people, whose protection must receive the highest priority.
Immediate action by government is essential in protecting us from the pandemic. All citizens have an important role to play, as do political leaders of all stripes. Our elected representatives must place partisan politics aside. Decisions must be based on facts and not laced with the partisan politics we are witnessing south of the border where Congress is deadlocked on an economic recovery program.
We need to take full advantage of our isolated location and the fact most of us live on an Island. We must tighten up our control over people bringing the virus into the province by stricter airport and ferry protocols. We need to find out how we can marshal Facilities, equipment and personnel around the province and establish regional clinics where people can be treated, while keeping them physically separated from other patients in our health care system.
My intent is to be constructive and not critical. We are already seeing the beginning of drive through patient sites, which is an excellent measure to keep Covid-19 patients apart from other patients. I am suggesting some additional measures:
1. All parties should come together through a coalition government, which was the action taken in wartime by the United Kingdom. The leaders of the Opposition and the New Democratic Party should be brought into the Cabinet. This would inspire greater public confidence and compliance with the social distancing which is so essential.
2. Government should create two special advisory councils, each drawn from the
community as volunteers. The first would deal with the medical and social impact and how to flatten the curve with least adverse impact on vulnerable people. The second would deal with the economic and fiscal impact by advising how economic and fiscal recovery can be achieved. The two councils will together deal with the major medical issues but also with the social and economic impact on the province, including our growing debt and our ability to borrow.
3. The chair of the advisory council on medical and social issues should be a practicing or retired health care professional, with experience in health care management. Members should be appointed based on their expertise in dealing with medical and social issues. The Council should consult broadly on how to control the spread of coronavirus and how to minimize the impact on people.
4. The chair of the economic and financial council should be a person with strong business, economic and financial credentials. The Council should be diverse and include business, labor, and community leaders as well as economists. The Council should consult on ways of keeping independent businesses solvent and able to operate as soon as the operating ban is lifted so that employment can be quickly restored. All members of the two councils should serve as volunteers.
5. Each council should be comprised of eight to ten members. The chair of each advisory
committee should also serve as an ex officio member of the other.
6. Each of these two advisory councils should reach out to solicit advice from private
citizens, from business and from community organizations. They should also keep abreast of measures being taken in other jurisdictions.
7. Each of these advisory councils should meet frequently and have access to the Premier, to Ministers and to key decision makers, including the Premier, all Ministers, the Chief Medical Officer and the Clerk of the Executive Council.
8. A senior public servant, at the deputy minister level, should be assigned to work with
each of the two advisory committees and to provide access to resources and information.
9. A senior deputy minister, most appropriately the Clerk of the Executive Council, should be vested with the authority to ensure that decisions relating to the pandemic are expedited and that bottlenecks are removed.
10. Both councils should report to the coalition government through the Premier.
11. The national armed forces should be asked to work with the province on the logistics of enforcing social distancing and to help mobilize special clinics by repurposing buildings.
12. Government should also move act to increase the number of people who stay at home.
Australian research indicates that at least 8 of 10 people should be staying at home. By keeping too many businesses running we have no chance. Truly essential services probably account for the full 2 out of 10 allowable people but with construction and major industrial sites still operating our number will be well short of the goal.
Each of us bears responsibility to prevent the spread of the pandemic. It stands to reason that we as citizens must have a say in the collective decisions which will protect us.
I served as a deputy minister for more than 10 years in the Office of the Executive Council including over six years as Clerk of the Executive Council but, at 80 years of age and highly vulnerable to the Covid-19 virus, it should be clear that I am not proposing any role for myself but simply offering my advice on best practices for governing in the age of coronavirus.
I am copying the Leader of the Opposition, the Leader of the New Democratic Party and the Minister of Health and Community Services.