Rapid Testing is Key to Re-Opening Our Region | Dec 24, 2020
STATEMENT BY CHRIS LEWIS, MP ESSEX
Essex – On the eve of Christmas and as my constituents face an uncertain new year with a province-wide lockdown, one thing is very clear, we must find a sustainable way to keep our communities and our small businesses open while protecting the health of Ontarians.
Lockdowns are a blunt instrument at best and exact a steep price both economically and emotionally. I am calling on the federal Minister of Health to prioritize rapid testing and more specifically, a rapid testing hub in my riding of Essex.
Yes, I am concerned about the physical well-being of my constituents – very concerned – and I do support appropriate social distancing measures. I am, however, equally concerned about their jobs, the survival of their businesses and increasingly, about their emotional and mental well-being. In our effort to keep the curve flattened indefinitely, we are at risk of losing the things that matter most to us. I hear daily from constituents who are at their wits end. Rapid testing would be a simple and meaningful fix.
I commend Premier Ford for his impassioned plea to the powers that be in Ottawa – PM Trudeau, Minister Freeland and Minister Hadju – to get the long-promised rapid testing facilities up and running at Pearson International airport where thousands of travellers arrive daily from all over the globe, apparently, with little or no testing and very little follow-up.
I agree with our Premier, rapid testing is crucial to getting our province open and keeping it open. But this is more than about Toronto Pearson International Airport or about the GTA, we need a rapid testing hub in Essex too. As many will recall, the Town of Kingsville, in my riding, and the neighbouring Municipality of Leamington, were the last two communities in all of Canada to open up during the first wave of the Covid pandemic last spring. It was well into the summer – so much of our commerce was put in jeopardy. The cost was steep for our small businesses, sadly, some closed permanently.
I fear the latest lockdown, in which our region this time was among the first in, will be even more of the same or worse coming as it does after months of uncertainty, instability, indebtedness and loss.
The emotional toll is as steep – the tragic numbers of deaths in our long-term care homes, the months of isolation, the loss of human connection. Many dying alone without the comfort of those who loved them best at their side.
Even after the total lockdown in the LTCs was lifted, typically, only a designated family member can visit, and only on the condition that they have had a negative Covid test within a two-week period, or in some cases, as often as once a week.
At the moment, to be tested for Covid, residents in the riding of Essex have to queue up in either Windsor or Leamington and wait days for their results, only to have to repeat, for example, a few short days later, if they want to continue visiting a loved one.
Many of those designated visitors are themselves seniors or they are adult children with jobs and children to care for. Having to make the trek to Windsor or Leamington, wait in long lines and then wait again for test results is demoralizing and wearing them down. A rapid testing hub closer to home would lighten their load immeasurably.
For those with immediate and extended family in the US the stress and uncertainty has been acute. Even though we were able to get the Trudeau government to finally agree to expand those eligible to visit Canada through Family Reunification, the required two-week quarantine period makes it impossible for many to visit. Now, another layer of bureaucracy has been added to cause more delays – authorization from IRRC, which is notoriously backlogged at the best of times.
For those who have loved ones in the US – immediate and extended family – rapid testing would mean that some normalcy could return. I have a constituent who hasn’t been able to see her American fiancé for months. She is one of many. I know of countless adult children who must quarantine for fourteen days just to visit their elderly parents, all the while having to social distance and even isolate from them upon their arrival.
Finally, but as important, our region’s proximity to the busiest border crossing in North America has unique challenges. The auto sector – the assembly plant and its crucial supply chain – is fully integrated with the North American market. We risk losing our vital place in the manufacturing supply chain without rapid testing.
Buyers need to physically inspect their contracted products, especially in the early design and prototype phase. Suppliers need to meet with their buyers where headquartered. This requires frequent international travel, not just Canada-US but because of CETA, Europe as well.
Having to quarantine for two weeks for every product transaction is simply not sustainable. As the current contracts are completed, foreign buyers will start to seek suppliers closer to home with fewer hoops. Rapid testing could save our vital auto parts and mold maker sectors by shortening the required quarantine period to days, rather than weeks.
Premier Ford, please add Essex to your plea to Ottawa for rapid testing as I now add mine to yours.
PM Justin Trudeau, Deputy PM Freeland and Minister Hajdu, give Canadians a meaningful present this Christmas. Give them the gift of hope. Give them a real light at the end of this tunnel. Start by prioritizing rapid testing.