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COVID-19: Show your 'hard rock spirit' and make this our 'finest hour,' Sudbury

We need to pull together, much like the British did during WWII, says Sudburian Narasim Katary

The Battle of Britain raged during July through October 1940 when the German Air Force attempted to bomb Britain into submission. The small British Air Force valiantly fought back and defeated the misguided Germans. 

Throughout that harrowing period Britishers showed indomitable courage and refused to succumb. That British resolve has come down to us as The Finest Hour. 

In peace time, the current COVID-19 crisis poses a comparable challenge for Sudbury, albeit not on an existential scale. All the same, our response will determine life in Sudbury for the next generation.

If we recover the hard rock spirit of Sudbury that created this mindful town, historians are likely to say that this was The Finest Hour of Sudbury. Crisis time is opportunity time for learning about who we are.

Three security imperatives are ahead of us and how we deal with them will define both our standard of living and quality of life for the next generation. 

They are food, medical equipment and pharmaceuticals, and electricity security in the coming months. 

Compared to these three, the curtailment of some activities, establishments, and social distancing are mere inconveniences. The massive economic impacts are systemic and only the two senior levels of government can address them and they are doing it as best as they can.

Electricity undergirds our way of life more than we realize because we have come to take it for granted. Imagine life without electricity. To put it simply, comfortable life as know it will come to an end. Electricity distribution is the responsibility of the city-state. 

Large-scale electricity generation is out of the hands of the people of the city. A moment’s reflection on the likelihood of technicians involved in the generation and distribution of electricity coming down with COVID-19 is a sobering experience. A two-week self-quarantine of knowledgeable people in succession will cause a disruption the likes of which we have not seen in a century. 

Adequacy of medical equipment and pharmaceuticals represent the second biggest challenge. There is not much we can do about adequate number of health professionals in the short-term. 

What we can do is to ensure that the front-line health professionals have adequate bio-hazard suits, masks, goggles and other preventive clothes. We can transform some buildings into ICU rooms with sufficient number of ventilators and other equipment to save lives. Senior citizens who have paid their dues to society are not expendables in a triage hall. 

Adequacy of food represents the third biggest challenge. Our supermarkets are awash in a sea of diverse foods that is the envy of the world. We tend to forget that the diversity and abundance are dependent upon interlocking supply chains. Grow and eat local is not a bumper sticker aphorism but a dire necessity in a world that is undergoing global pandemic. 

There is not much we can do in the short-term for food self-reliance. What we can do, however, is prepare for shortages by investigating alternate sources of food production and supply including careful rationing.

The complex supply chains for providing uninterrupted power supply, contemporary health care, and abundant food will be disrupted notwithstanding well-meaning earnest assurances emanating from industry sources. 

People who produce and transport electricity, medical equipment, pharmaceuticals, and food are subject to the vagaries of the same unknown invisible microbes. Italy is a tragic example of what is likely when supply chains breakdown.

The city-state has a pivotal role in preparing and implementing contingency plans in the above three challenges. It is easy to say that authorities in the electricity, health and food industries are directly responsible and leave it to them. 

To state the self-evident, their responsibilities are provincial and national with large urban centres securing the lion’s share of their attention. Who speaks up for our community of 155,000? All emergency preparedness is local.

Individuals have a critical role to play in managing the current crisis that is likely to last for quite some time. Each one of us can be a Good Samaritan by observing common sense practices. 

An indicative list includes but not limited to: following directives issued by knowledgeable health professionals; using federal and provincial economic assistance wisely; supporting local businesses; not hoarding any necessities; offering assistance to neighbours. We can all think of ways in which we can help others. 

In confronting and overcoming the above three challenges, each one of us can play a decisive role. The temptation to think that these forces are beyond our control amounts to willful disregard of the shaping influence of Canada. 

Whenever you think that you have negligible influence on history, please think of spending a night with three invisible mosquitoes in a dark room. Each one of us matters in a time like this.

Narasim Katary is a former director of long-range planning with the City of Greater Sudbury.