The Prime Minister has made it clear: physical distancing is the new normal until a vaccine is developed—probably at least a year away. He also said it will probably be a "few months" before Canada is in a position to consider allowing people to return in a meaningful way to their regular workplaces and routines. And that, if we are to avoid further outbreaks, the approach will need to be "measured" and "graduated."
To safely and effectively restart the economy, we will have to prioritize the industries, communities and people that should go back to work first. We will also need to conduct continual testing and timely contact tracing because we cannot risk another outbreak that shuts us down all over again.
Society will need certain sectors up and running as fast as possible. And other parts of the economy, while not essential, will likely be able to go safely back to work before others, as well. All of this will vary by province, underlining the need for unprecedented levels of intergovernmental co-ordination.
An extended period of physical distancing is also likely to have a lasting impact on the way we shop, consume entertainment and view the rest of the world. We can expect these changes to reshape health care, education and supply chains in Canada and around the world.
And for many of us, the way we work and the way we interact will be forever changed. We will have tested new technologies and found many are just as good, or better, than the ones we were using before. For many, working from home will be the new normal.
Physical distancing in particular is also revealing key areas that need investment. The federal and provincial governments must be ready with targeted and strategic stimulus for all areas of our economy—not only to kick-start the country but to ensure we are better positioned for the future.
This will include investments in digital technologies to enhance the speed and responsiveness of the way we do business as well as our ability to support the new virtual work force, virtual education system and virtual health services.
We will get through this, but ultimately, the transition from containment to recovery through to the end of the inevitable recession will require the continued collective management skills and participation from all levels of government, the central bank, the business community and every Canadian.
And we have to start today.