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Letter: When it comes to a Northern Bubble, better late than never

‘Ask yourself, are we doing as much as we can to protect our community?’

Ten thousand cases a day. How many more do we need before Queen’s Park lets us have the Northern Bubble?

According to the latest modelling available from the provincial government on Feb. 8, Ontario could rise to just under 10,000 cases a day by April if the COVID variant from the United Kingdom puts a stranglehold on Ontario. 

This comes as lockdown measures have been relaxed across many of the health units across Ontario. As cases decline, I understand the rationale for allowing businesses to re-open under a gradual framework and allowing the public to enjoy more freedoms when it comes to living their lives. 

COVID fatigue has affected us all mentally and physically in detrimental ways that will take years to overcome. I believe that this stresses the importance of establishing, as close as we can in our community, a Northern Bubble.

Dr. Peter Zalan, past president of medical staff for Health Sciences North, has continued to push this idea in several different articles submitted to, cumulatively, for almost an entire year. 

Former mayor Jim Gordon has also stressed the importance of having a serious discussion with the provincial government about ways to protect the North, suggesting proactive and preventative ideas like rapid COVID testing, cautionary signage along northbound major highways, and proposing firefighters work checkpoints for travel. 

Our current mayor, Brian Bigger, has explicitly stated he is making a formal request to the provincial government to create checkpoints along highway 69 and 400. 

What will it take for the provincial government, and ultimately our neighbouring Northern Ontario communities, to cooperate with each other and enforce policies that protect the livelihood of all Northern Ontarians?

A third lockdown is impending. The evidence and projections show we are not finished the battle, and the worst may be yet to come. Vaccines are on their way, but we have faced multiple delays in deliveries and implementation that will likely be faced again, let alone combined with any hesitation from the public to get the vaccine when it becomes available. 

There is light at the end of the tunnel, but we must recognize and implement greater measures than we have in the past to protect the health of Ontario. 

A Northern Bubble should be part of this plan, and I’m confident a policy of the sort will help immensely in protecting Northern communities that seem to suffer the most from the provincial government’s inability to account for Southern Ontario’s setbacks. 

I am not a politician, nor am I a doctor. There are clear obstacles in the way of a Northern Bubble, including — but not limited to — supply chain inefficiencies for the very businesses we are trying to re-open. Police services are already weighted, and municipal governments require change to provincial legislation to be able to do much in terms of enforcement of any COVID-related limitations. 

That said, unprecedented times call for unprecedented measures. With our government, the motto has always seemed to be, “You can’t do something … until you can.” I ask those in positions of authority to consider protecting Northern Ontario more than they currently have and recognize the impact vaccine delays and COVID variants will have on the community. 

Ask yourself, are we doing as much as we can to protect our community?

I for one believe in the bubble. Better late than never. 

Niko Bota