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Opinion: B.C. government will lose trust if it stays unclear in its messaging

'I am asking them to be more honest, open-minded and thoughtful about the messaging they put out.'
B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix.

Rather quietly, the provincial government has shifted its COVID-19 response from a relatively open book to a closed and locked cell.

By shifting its outlook on who is allowed to take a COVID-19 test, such as people who are at risk for more severe disease or people who work in high-risk settings such as healthcare, the government has ostensibly decided that we will no longer be monitoring who and how many people have contracted this virus. The information that is being reported about the number of cases in the last few weeks are wholly and undoubtedly inaccurate.

Who cares? Some people might say. We’ve been told that many people are going to contract the Omicron variant of the virus for weeks now, better to triage tests to the elderly, those with severe disease and those in high-risk settings.

And to be honest, I agree! But there are two caveats to this approach that cause concern.

First, the lack of testing is putting undue stress on our most vulnerable people: the people with comorbidities, folks with children under five, the people in long-term care homes and those who work in them. Because the Omicron variant spread like wildfire throughout the province, it’s difficult to discern where, when and who has the virus. By holding tests for just the vulnerable groups, there is still very little clarity for these groups.

Another caveat to the provincial government’s sudden new approach is they are dissolving trust among the people amid their inaccurate reporting and decision making. Trust is a fickle thing between the government and the people. In a highly charged time, trust is even more precarious than before.

When the B.C. government pulls the rug out from under the people, it loses the trust it built. And, when the government is still trying to get roughly 16.5% of those who are eligible to get vaccinated, quick trigger changes in testing dilute its vaccination messaging. Though there is little the government can predict about an evolving and adapting virus, its messaging has been wishy-washy and confusing at best.

Simply put, I am not asking for the government to get everything right on the first go. That would be an outrageous ask. But I am asking them to be more honest, open-minded and thoughtful about the messaging they put out. And, I am asking them to equally regard vulnerable populations just as anyone else. These people are not expendable, no matter how much everyone just wants things to get back to normal.

Andrew Hughes is a Squamish resident, UBC journalism student and freelance reporter with The Squamish Chief.