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04/24/2003 Archived Entry: "SARS in Toronto"

"Toronto is put into 'quarantine' over SARS outbreak," the Independent newspaper in London announced on the bottom half of its front page." The newspaper said the city was "placed under and unexpected quasi-quarantine" by the WHO. Since family members are already calling Brad and me to check on our health, here are the facts....

There have been 16 deaths in Toronto and area due to SARS, 140 probable and 190 suspected cases, all of which can be traced to an index case. That is to say, health officials can account for the vector of transmission in every reported instance. SARS is confined to a small, defined population and to certain locales, such as hospitals. Thus, "Canadian officials reacted with outrage to a World Health Organization warning that travelers should avoid Toronto because of an outbreak of severe acute respiratory syndrome." Thus, Toronto joins the WHO's list of SARS hot zones - Hong Kong, Beijing, and the Chinese provinces of Guangdong and Shanxi. Britain has already joined in calling for a travel "ban" on Toronto. Frankly, this is ludicrous. All existing cases of SARS are in quarantine, the illness is being aggressively controlled, people in this city of approx. 3 million people are going about their business without fear or masks, schools and public events are business-as-usual... Moreover there is no indication of casual transmission. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has showed more reason. the CDC has issued a travel alert to Americans traveling to Toronto, suggesting they avoid health-care facilities and monitor their health for 10 days following their return. But it has not urged Americans not to come to Toronto. It has issued such warnings for Hong Kong and China. Since Toronto accounts for approx. 1/5th of the economic output of Canada, the WHO's surprise emergency travel alert is expected to batter the economy up here without protecting anyone. The Toronto Stock Exchange has opened lower today, partly due to uncertainty over how the SARS sacre will impact tourism and other economic factors. Moreover, some businesses are declaring a de facto ban on residents of Toronto, For example, "Crystal Cruises of Los Angeles announced it would keep Toronto residents from boarding its ships next month and other cruise lines are considering similar action." Welcome to the new global hysteria.

Returning to the old global hysteria -- the war on terrorism and the war in Iraq. "Peace is Hell" is beginning to spin out with the US issuing a proclamation against the self-anointed Mayor of Baghdad Mohammed Mohsen Zubaid, saying that anyone who assumes authority without being appointed by the US will be viewed as a criminal and arrested. It is not clear how the US can enforce this edict as most of its troops are guarding the airport, which is several miles from Baghdad. Meanwhile, political parties such as the Communists are sezing small areas of the city and raising their own flags. In the city of Kut, the Washington Post reports..."The U.S. Marines who seized control of this city near the Iranian border more than two weeks ago still have not dared enter the mayor's office. That is the domain of Sayed Abbas Fadhil -- and for now, he is untouchable. Fadhil, a portly Shiite Muslim preacher turned farmer who has proclaimed himself the new mayor of Kut, insists his ascension to high office has been blessed by the city's religious leaders, teachers, lawyers, doctors, municipal workers and just about everyone else around, save for the U.S. military and those who were part of ousted president Saddam Hussein's Baath Party." With the Shiites flexing a great deal more anti-American muscle that was expected, Kurt Nimo of CounterPunch makes a provocative prediction, "the Bushites will eventually regret getting rid of Saddam Hussein. In short order, Iraq will turn from a Ba'athist dictatorship into a Muslim theocracy."

A news item that has not received much attention..."Over the past 18 months, the U.S. government has bought access to data on hundreds of millions of residents of 10 Latin American countries -- apparently without their consent or knowledge -- allowing myriad federal agencies to track foreigners entering and living in the United States." This is of concern to all privacy-loving Canadians who suspect that the Canadian government has made a similar deal with the States in negotiations aimed at avoiding the visa requirements for crossing the US border that is going to be imposed (apparently) on all other foreigners. Canada continues to be a bastion of ambivalence toward the war in Iraq and US foreign policy. Today the RCMP put Canadian police departments on notice "to prepare for a peacekeeping mission in Iraq, should there be a formal request for such a mission." The US has formally requested peacekeeping troops from Canada but the federal government yesterday ruled out deploying any military units. The key word is "military"; Canadian policemen are likely to be enlisted to help restore the peace in Iraq in some manner without having to place a Canadian army boot print onto Iraqi soil. All in all, the situation makes me appreciate La Belle Province, Quebec, whose influence on national politics is immense and acts as a counter-weight against support for anything Britain or the US wants.

Best to all,

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