Scenes From A Pandemic

It’s been a while since I wrote anything about the pandemic with which we have all been living since March of 2020, but more ink and more airtime has been spent on COVID-19 than on any other topic I can recall over the past few years. Daily reports on case numbers, hospitalizations, tests and, unfortunately, deaths, are broadcast and published around the province, the country and the whole wide world.

We had become quite smug about how few cases had emerged in Nova Scotia, how people were following the rules, wearing masks, self-isolating, practicing self-distancing and staying safe; then the dam broke and we found ourselves with rapidly rising case numbers, people rushing to stand in line for tests, waiting in fear for the results — all indications our provincial “bubble” had burst, and burst with a resounding bang!

Afterwards came more restrictions, restrictions beyond what we had already been facing, including closing borders and schools, reducing the numbers of shoppers permitted in stores, closing bars and restaurants, pausing religious gatherings and other commonsense measures designed to build a new bubble, safe and secure for all of us. Faced with the many variants that can be contracted and passed along so much more easily than the original virus, plus the fact that younger people are more likely to be the victims of these variants, it’s more urgent than ever that we do whatever is necessary to control the outbreak.

Unfortunately (but not surprisingly) the restrictions have inspired a backlash.


One strange and scary happening is the rise of conspiracy theories that would have us believe COVID is a hoax perpetrated by governments and Big Pharma, the latter hoping to become even richer with the sale of vaccines. Another theory blames China for the virus and has resulted in attacks on people of Asian descent right here in Canada.

Anti-Mask Protest Halifax 2021.05.15

Anti-mask protest, Halifax, 15 May 2021. (Photo by Vernon Ramesar/CBC)

Natalie Obiko Pearson, in a Bloomberg article about such attacks in  Vancouver, wrote that the city is “the most Asian city outside Asia.”

Where a quarter of residents speak a Chinese language…Where a Sikh gurdwara, a Tibetan monastery, and a Chinese evangelical church coexist in harmony along a 3-kilometer stretch of road dubbed the Highway to Heaven.

And yet:

…with almost 1 out of every 2 residents of Asian descent in British Columbia experiencing a hate incident in the past year, the region is confronting an undercurrent of racism that runs as long and as deep as the historical links stretching across the Pacific.

Another response is the declaration, by anti-restriction and lockdown fanatics, that such measures constitute attacks on their personal liberties and to ignore and outrageously flout them — the house party becoming the anti-COVID-restrictions weapon of choice in and around Halifax, where one group also managed a maskless gathering on Citadel Hill. Nothing, not hefty fines nor fear of contracting the virus and bringing it home to family members, seems to have any serious effect on such people.


Scenes from India, where hundreds of thousands have died and many of the sick are without medical help, ventilators or oxygen, should convince anyone that COVID is for real. Like Donald Trump before him, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi played down the significance of the disease, holding huge political rallies with thousands of unmasked people jammed together.

Similarly, Brazilian President, Jair Bolsonaro insisted the COVID virus was “a media trick” and resisted any strong measures to stop the spread of what he called “a little flu.” By May 5, PBS News Hour’s Simon Ostrovsky was reporting the country had surpassed 400,000 deaths, while Bolsonaro, continued to accuse “political foes of tricking citizens.” Said Ostrovsky:

With a universal health care system, a long history of successful mass vaccination campaigns, and the delayed arrival of the coronavirus to its shores in 2020, Brazil had ample expertise and time to prepare for the COVID-19 pandemic.

No wonder Bolsonaro is under threat of a criminal investigation.

Then there’s Israel, which has the world’s highest COVID-19 vaccination rate, and which, according to PBS News Hour, recently began a vaccine passport program that “allows immunized people access to a normality that’s denied people who’ve not had the shots.” But as special correspondent Martin Himel reported, the program’s success in Israel is not mirrored in the Palestinian territories, where the virus runs rampant. Israeli officials insist that the Palestinian governments in the West Bank and Gaza are responsible for vaccinating Palestinians.

In a Sunday evening interview with Linda Epstein, a Halifax-born journalist who has lived in Israel since the 1980s, CTV Atlantic’s Bruce Frisco questioned her about the days of bombings and rocket attacks that have killed both Palestinians and Israelis. In the course of the interview, Epstein made it clear that COVID was not a concern in Israel, as most citizens have been vaccinated and COVID wards had shifted to caring for those wounded by rocket attacks. She was not questioned as to how the Palestinians were faring and whether or not their leaders were providing vaccines.


It would seem that what’s happening in India and Brazil with horrendous death rates from COVID, and Israel refusing to do mass vaccinations of Palestinians, we here in Canada should be thanking our lucky stars that we have received or will receive vaccinations against infection. There are those, however, who will refuse the vaccine, putting not only themselves but people who are waiting anxiously to receive it at risk. And the “no-maskers” will only accept that COVID is real when they or their loved ones fall victim it.

Nurse giving COVID vaccine shot.

Public health nurse Claudia Aucoin, left, administers the first COVID-19 vaccine in Eastern Zone to licensed practical nurse Darlene White at the Cape Breton Regional Hospital in Sydney on Monday 11 January 2021. (Source: NSHA)

As hard as it seems for some of us to accept, lockdowns and restrictions on traveling, shopping, visiting friends or going out for an evening, the all-clear will only come when COVID and its variants are no longer a threat. I can only hope that, together, we can get there.



Dolores Campbell, a lifelong resident of Sydney, is a freelance writer whose work has appeared in The Cape Breton Highlander, the Nova Scotian, Cape Breton Magazine, Catholic New Times and The Cape Breton Post.