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The Lockdown that Saved Nova Scotia: Why Every Tough Strategy Needs Trust

Dr. Robert Strang, Chief Medical Officer of Health in Nova Scotia, on Episode 1 of the Toughest Call podcast.

When North America first started getting wind of a possible pandemic, no one quite knew the right course of action. 

Many in government wanted to watch and wait. Some were convinced we’d already outsmarted the virus. And still others thought the whole thing was simply exaggerated — just another variation of the flu.

While the public may not have known its extent, the urgency to “do something” was extremely pressing within Nova Scotia’s inner political circles. With catastrophic evidence pouring in from COVID-ravaged countries overseas, there was no time for public consultation. 

There was only time to act.

And act, they did. 

Under the advice of Chief Medical Officer of Health, Dr. Robert Strang, Nova Scotia completely shut down. No school. No restaurants. No offices. It was a lockdown like no one had ever seen before. And Nova Scotia became one of the first provinces in Canada to do so. 

From a political standpoint, it was an extremely tough call. A premature lockdown could cause massive damage to the economy. But on the flip side, it could save the economy in the long term, along with countless lives.

When the lockdown was ordered, Dr. Strang immediately backed up the strategy with an aggressive plan to personally connect with stakeholders in every corner of the province. Hour after hour, day after day, week after week, he bounced from one Zoom call to the next with people from every sector imaginable - restaurant owners, government colleagues, retailers, healthcare professionals, tourism operators, just to name a few.

“My goal was to fight the array of disinformation and help them clearly understand the virus, the situation we’re in, and why what we’re doing was necessary,” said Strang. “What I found is that we all had the same level of anxiety about our situation. But through those conversations, we were able to win their confidence by helping them see we had a clear direction and strong rationale for what we were doing. In short, our entire plan was designed to build one thing: trust.”

Because of that trust, Nova Scotians put their differences aside and pulled together in an unprecedented way. 

In the end, that trust helped Nova Scotia become one of THE most COVID-free regions on the planet.

Even the best strategies don’t operate in isolation. They all need trust and a plan to make them work.

To hear the full 20-minute episode “Going into the first pandemic lockdown” with Dr. Robert Strang on our Toughest Call podcast. Listen wherever you get your podcasts or online here:

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