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Opinion: Do something about the mess at the nation’s airports

John Cairns’ News Watch - Enough is enough with all the nonsense at the nation’s airports.
covid graphic
We still aren’t done with “COVID.”

REGINA —  Today, for the first time in a long time, I am going to write about COVID.

I will not even refer to it by its proper title COVID-19. Instead, I am referring to it exactly the way it deserves: in a derogatory manner. 

In this case, my disdain for “COVID” is less about this virus itself, and more about the nonsense surrounding it which has disrupted people's lives. 

The latest stupidity is playing out at Canada's airports. From all accounts, airports in Canada remain mired in mask mandates, proof of vax checking, staff shortages, travel delays and other madness. 

Toronto’s Pearson Airport has been compared to “hell on Earth” with the lineups. People are being delayed getting anywhere, because staff have to do the added work of checking on people's vaccine status before they board the plane. On top of that has been additional random COVID testing.

One passenger, former NHL player Ryan Whitney, even Tweeted about his miserable experience at Pearson, spending hours at the airport trying to get on a connecting flight.

The entire travel industry is taking a hit, and airlines are fed up and blaming the government. In response, Canada is lifting their random COVID testing requirement — until the end of the month, at which point they will resume the testing. Why they still bother, I don’t know.

There is no excuse for what is going on. We should not be at this point where we are now, full stop.

To backtrack: 

When this whole COVID-19 mess first started in March 2020 and restrictions mandating social distancing, travel, mask-wearing started getting imposed, I think Canadians understood that it was a serious situation and that there was much that we didn’t know about the virus, and that we had to do our part to stop it from spreading. We were all in it together, so we were told.

Canadians went along with this on the understanding it would be temporary. For most of us, the understanding was that the vaccines would restore our lives to normal.

The vast majority “did their part.” We observed social distancing, we agreed to the mask-wearing and we worked from home. Then we went and got the vaccines. Our vaccine uptake was among the highest in the world, over 80 per cent.

That should have been it. We should have been able to finally move on with our lives at that point. Instead, it was really after the vaccinations that the COVID craziness went full-on berserk. 

First, cases went up. Then came new measures. We had to start to show proof of vax to get into restaurants, concerts, sporting events and so on. The mask mandates got reimposed. Then the same people who had pressured the government into proof of vax and mask requirements started calling for concerts and events to be cancelled, even though the proof of vax and mask requirements were supposed to keep people safe there. It was like the goalposts kept on being moved, and  people were making up the “rules” as they went along. No rule was ever good enough.

What finally opened the eyes of a lot of people was when Omicron erupted around November and December of last year. It didn’t matter that this particular strain was less likely to kill you than the earlier ones. This new variant still provoked mass panic among government and public health officials, and we got a whole whack of restrictions, closures and curfews reimposed across Canada.

This was the turning point, even before the truckers’ convoy happened. Canadians felt a sense of betrayal. After what we had put up with, we were back to lockdowns, and cases were going through the roof.

It was around this time that I personally saw the chaos starting at the country’s airports for the first time. 

I had finally caved to pressure from relatives to travel to British Columbia to see the family at Christmas for the first time in two years. By that point I had just gotten triple-vaccinated, which was supposed to work against Omicron, so I took my chances. 

I managed to avoid Omicron in the airplanes and during my layover at the Calgary airport on the trip to British Columbia. But the trip back? Yikes. 

First of all, my flight back to Saskatoon was delayed twice, so I ended up staying in Kelowna a day longer than planned. The news reports later indicated that the reason for the delay was airline staff shortages due to staff being out sick with COVID.

Finally, it came time to board my twice-rescheduled flight to go home. When I arrived at the airport, I couldn’t believe the scene. The lineup to go through security ran from the security area at one end of the airport, right down to the baggage claim area at the other end. 

Now, the Kelowna airport is usually busy, but the security line was never like this. My parents were also there to see me off, and I worried we were all going to get COVID from this crowd of people. I knew everyone had to have been vaccinated because of “proof of vax,” but Omicron didn’t care about that because breakthrough infections were still happening. How the heck was this not a superspreader? 

Somehow, I managed to make my flight. Despite the mayhem, we didn’t catch COVID, but what bleeping nonsense that was.

Here we are, months later, and this “bleeping nonsense” is still going on at the major airports. COVID infections are way down, more people are triple vaccinated, and many people have additional immunity after having contracted COVID after all of their effort to avoid it. The winter storms and other usual excuses are long over. Yet this chaos is still going on, due to government-imposed COVID rules as well as a general lackadaisical effort to address this situation.

Of course, there is a way for travellers to avoid the airport nonsense, and that is to take the car. Good luck with that, having to pay through the nose to fill the tank!

The dutiful, rule-following people of Canada did not sign up for this. We did not sign up for over two full years of COVID craziness. We did not sign up for chaos at airports. We did not sign up for endless travel mandates and mask mandates. We did not sign up for 207 cents a litre at the gas pumps, or supply chain nonsense, or food inflation, or interest rate hikes or the rest of the economic fallout from the spending governments have been doing to bail people out from COVID lockdown restrictions.

I don’t know where the politicians, public health leaders, and the rest of those in charge of the world lost their way, but it’s not too late for them to get back to focus on the job that needs to be done to get things back on track. Here is a multiple-choice test for all of them to take.

You have one job. Select which it is:

(A) Flatten the curve.

(B) Prevent travellers from infecting everyone with COVID-19.

(C) Make life so annoying for the unvaccinated that they will change their minds and get vaccinated after all.

(D) Blame the Russians.

(E) Fix this mess.

The correct answer is “E.” Fix this mess. By that, I mean get our lives back to a semblance of where it was prior to 2020. 

This includes fixing this mess at the airports, and all the other messes going on at the moment including all the ones caused by the Russians. Maybe you can even cure monkeypox while you’re at it.

Just do it. This answer should be obvious, but I get the impression the only people capable of knowing what the correct answer is are precisely the folks who are not in charge.