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LETTER: Reader says we can learn from Taiwan

'If we adapted proper screening, stricter protocols and proper contact tracing, there really is no reason for restaurants to be closed,' says resident
2021-05-17 Restaurant
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We are a week away from our second Victoria Day long weekend in this pandemic and it looks like another summer will be lost.
Businesses and tourism will continue to suffer, students will be without summer jobs, access to beaches will be restricted to residents and restaurants stay closed except for takeout.
However, do businesses like our restaurants really need to become casualties of this pandemic? No, they do not. Unfortunately, we stumbled into this pandemic ill-prepared. We received confusing and mixed messaging and, to some extent, that is still happening.
As any farmer knows if you start plowing crooked furrows, it is hard to straighten them out.
Changing course for our political leaders is difficult and embarrassing as it opens them up to attacks at a time when we should be less partisan. Staying the course seems to be the wiser choice, even if it is the wrong one. A rare exception was the reversal of Premier Doug Ford’s decision to reopen playgrounds.
On the other side of the world, in Taiwan they entered into this pandemic fully prepared. At the first sign of this new virus pandemic planning went into action. I will not bore the readers with all the details, but at the time of writing they had a total of 12 deaths. Schools only closed for two weeks and restaurants stay open. Really? But how?
Taipei and New Taipei City are now at Level 3 COVID-19 restrictions. Level 4 is a full lockdown. However, you can still eat in a restuarant. Food vendors have to follow strict COVID guidelines. Among those are registration and contact tracing of patrons. Social distancing and clear plexi-glass dividers are used to isolate each and every diner.
When we tried contact tracing in restaurants here, people treated it like a joke and gave false phone numbers. Any establishment in Ontario with a liquor licence by law cannot over-serve someone. The same should apply to accurate contact tracing. A verification system could be used to weed out the false information and as an extension of that exclude diners from outside the local area.
Recently, Taiwan has experienced an outbreak. Taipei is at Level 3 due to 100-plus new cases in a day. Barrie is the COVID “hotspot” in Simcoe-Muskoka and we rarely exceeded 20 or 30 cases in a single day. Those days are among the bad days.
If we adapted proper screening, stricter protocols and proper contact tracing there really is no reason for restaurants to be closed.
Unfortunately, those decisions are completely out of our hands.
Robert Ossowski