The Problem with the War on Covid

Are we at war against the Covid-19? The way world leaders and others describe the current pandemic would have people think so! Read Amanda’s opinion  on this week’s blog post from the Coronavirus and dementia in care homes (CoDeC) study


We have been hearing from the American President about how he has fought the good fight against Covid-19 with vaccination research, referring to himself as a “war-time president”.


Using images of war in illness is not uncommon: consider the “bravery” of patients who win the “battle” against cancer. The problem with declaring war on Covid, or any other illness, is the partly how language is used and operationalized. Declaring war always and primarily involves acts of destruction, and not healing acts of response and recovery, in the first instance. Witness two examples, both ongoing:


In Iraq (and elsewhere in the world), we have heard about the war on terror that has also included the destruction of the homes and lives of millions of civilians, most of whom were innocent and incidental bystanders in the wrong place at the wrong time. The “war on terror” continues in the world today.


In the Philippines, we have heard about the war on drugs that has also included the sudden, spur-of-the-moment killing of thousands of vulnerable drug users, most of whom were falsely accused of drug trafficking, without the due process of a fair trial. The “war on drugs” continues in the world today.


The problem with declaring war on anything is that it positions people into victims and villains along the convenient social binary of good or evil, in terms of “for” or “against”. What about everything in between, along the continuum of humanity?


And, in the case of Covid-19, where do people with dementia fit in? Where do scared, underpaid healthcare workers fit in? What about care home managers desperate to find and keep trained, caring staff who are worried about their families contracting Covid? What about family members managing care at home? Where do they/we all fit in, along the continuum of humanity?


To move forward in this pandemic, so that this “war” does not continue in the world today, we can start by re-framing the rhetoric of the conversation towards collaboration and consideration of others, beginning with verbs of “being”. In the words of Canadian public health official, Dr. Bonnie Henry, we all need to “be kind, be calm, be safe”.









Translink Compass Card, Vancouver Skytrain. Source:


Written by Amanda M.