|SARS is becoming a more serious threat here in Toronto -- if not to our health, than to our economy.
For the past three weeks I have been seeing small effects at the business level through my job. On two separate occasions clients were restricted by their corporate employers from travelling here from their offices in the US and Europe. A friend told me that he spoke to hotel staff who told him they expected to be 100% booked but actually had only 17% of their rooms filled. Commerce is certainly down, at the very least in Chinatown and the Chinese malls. Of course, we have also had conference and tour cancellations. The Globe and Mail wrote about the effects on tourism on Saturday.
After some of the recent news, things are bound to get worse before they get better. On Thursday it was reported that there are now unexplained cases that may (or may not) be related to incidental contact. Now it is reported that authorities are looking to contact GO train passengers who may have been seated near an infected nurse. Additionally there is a "beligerent" SARS infectee who won't stay in quarantine.
Overall, there is still no reason for any of us to panic. In reality, the facts seem to indicate that there is low health risk to us all. If SARS really was a horrible new scourge that was going to wipe us out, it would be showing signs of exponential growth, which it is not. However, while there is not good reason to panic, we certainly will all be happier without SARS around. And, it seems natural to expect that this recent news will only increase the fears that are hurting our economy.
To that end, people have been wondering where our leaders have been. The Toronto Star has questioned the lack of leadership from Jean Chretien and Ernie Eves, and this has been repeated in The New York Times. The Globe and Mail has criticized the lack of involvement from Mel Lastman.
Thankfully, this is an election year, both provincially and locally. Both Dalton McGuinty and John Tory have announced action plans for SARS, the economy, and those affected indirectly through quarantine or layoffs. David Miller has been vocal in criticisms of Lastman's inactivity, and John Nunziata has called for an emergency meeting. These candidates are critics on soapboxes, and are doing a good job of calling our governments to task.||