Image courtesy of the Military Health System

Albert Radu / Edge columnist

In light of the recent Coronavirus outbreak in China, many Canadians have been worried about the potential implications of a complete city lock-down, and how it would affect daily life in a Canadian city if an outbreak were to occur. 

Fortunately, Canada’s charter of rights makes such a quarantine illegal, but is this truly a good trade off? Would the Canadian population benefit more from a complete quarantine or having their right of free movement in the case of a Coronavirus outbreak within Canada?

Historically speaking, large scale quarantines are for the most part ineffective, due to the massive amount of resources required to conduct one. 

The only situation where a wide-scale quarantine would be effective is when the virus in question is highly transmissible, but only after a very short incubation period; Coronavirus does not fit these parameters.

In this modern interconnected world, it is easier than ever to get from one place to another, and despite rigorous quarantine, the coronavirus has been able to escape Wuhan and spread to the rest of China, and in some cases, other countries. 

A similar quarantine in a country like Canada where transportation methods are much more widely available, and the infrastructure between different cities is far better established is bound to be extremely ineffective, as well as disruptive to the population.

Another problem with a large-scale quarantine similar to China’s is the inevitable lack of supplies within the quarantine zones. 

Stores and grocery markets are already struggling to keep up with demand in Chinese cities such as Wuhan, and a lack of food supplies means that citizens need to be spending more time outside looking for supplies, thus giving them a higher chance of contracting the virus.  

Contrarily, a quarantine will be able to somewhat slow the spread, if not contain the virus within a specific geographical location, allowing doctors and medical personnel more time to attempt to develop a treatment.

Additionally, the freedom of movement can technically be infringed in specific circumstances by the Canadian government. 

 The Emergency Powers Act of Canada allows the Canadian parliament to take special temporary measures to guarantee the safety of the Canadian public during a national emergency. 

Thus, if deemed necessary, the parliament can vote to quarantine a city and restrict all movement within the nation. 

A quarantine zone would allow the Canadian government to easily keep track of infected individuals, and enact large scale reforms within local areas, greatly increasing the rate at which the government can implement changes and increasing the effectiveness of government actions. 

As the virus continues to spread to other countries, and researchers continue in the race to develop a treatment, we can only wait to see if the Canadian government resorts to drastic measures in the case of an outbreak, and how that would affect our daily lives.