What If It Doesn’t End?

It doesn’t matter what country they are from or what their political philosophy is. COVID-19 is their worst nightmare. But not in the way you might think.

Very few politicians worldwide have dealt with the pandemic with any degree of competence. At least that is the way it looks from my vantage point, and I admit it is easier to criticize than manage a crisis.

As we approach the first anniversary of what feels like an endless series or restrictions and lockdowns, with things only getting worse most places, politicians must be asking the big question: What if.

What if, despite our best efforts we don’t manage to deal effectively with the virus? What if the vaccines don’t work in the long run? We are already being told they aren’t likely to effective for more than a year.

What if the virus continues to mutate, as it has been doing, at a speed that makes this year’s vaccine useless against next year’s virus? Effectively we would be starting all over again.

What if COVID-19 turns out to be something we can’t beat, but will just have to learn to live with? Does that make all the plans, the violations of civil liberties, the restrictions, the economic shutdowns, the unprecedented government spending, pointless?

Our leaders have shut down the economy, created a mental health emergency that may turn out to be deadlier than COVID-19 and run roughshod over everyone’s rights in the name of public health. What if it turns out the best policy would have been to keep everything open, to live with the status quo, understanding that some people were going to die from the virus? Isn’t that the only thing they haven’t tried?

While some jurisdictions have had success with extreme lockdowns lasting months. Melbourne, Australia, for example, was locked down for 112 consecutive days last year. The lockdown was lifted when there were no longer any COVID-19 cases in the city. People visiting outside the city were unable to go home. The human rights violations didn’t seem to matter.

Have they kept COVID out completely? I doubt it. The virus always seems to find a way back. At some point will our leaders decide the only logical thing to do is ride it out? Take a chance on overwhelming the hospitals, watch people die – but in the process achieve the herd immunity we have heard so much about in the past year, but that no-one seems to have achieved.

Lockdowns in Canada seem to have so many exceptions that I wonder why they bother. Ontario’s current state of emergency and stay-at-home rules allow people to leave their homes for essential trips. But essential is whatever you decide it to be. That can mean a medical emergency or a trip to the beer store.

What if it turns out the only effective way of dealing with COVID-19 is to let it run rampant through the community? Maybe that way we can develop some sort of herd immunity to reduce it to no more of an issue than the annual influenza season.

Would our health care system be overwhelmed, as all the experts insist? Would more people die than are dying now? Would politicians pay a political price for mismanaging the pandemic?

Does anyone have any answers?

3 comments

  1. What a good question. I have no answer. I suppose: Live life as faithfully and carefully as you can, knowing that life is short anyways – or at least, death always comes as surprise no matter how prepared we may be to face it. Maybe there’s an answer in that – learning to live life more simply, open handedly, faithfully, thankfully…
    Since I am in the third third of life, I am quite aware of how fast time has passed, and how my resource of time is running out. I am not fighting that. I am learning to live in the shadow of pandemics and other threats.

  2. Stephen Martin · · Reply

    The problem with letting it run its course is that many, many more people would die – way more than influenza. Who is going to make the choices over who gets treatment in a ICU and who doesn’t? Does human life simply become an economic decision? Which humans are more “desirable” for society and therefore get resources? Or does anyone with COVID simply not get any medical help? Wouldn’t it still end up being a political decision, since it would be a policy enacted by existing governments? How would that be better than what is happening now? Just some off the cuff thoughts.

    1. I agree. Not easy choices, and huge moral questions that governments are ill-prepared to ask, let alone answer.

      But a year into the pandemic it seems nothing government has done has made things better. Maybe there is nothing that government can do.

      With no restrictions there might be more deaths. Though it can be argued that the majority of those who have died of COVID-19 would have died anyway of something else. The stats I have seen suggest that.

      Many of those who catch it have symptoms far more acute than seasonal influenza, and there is a higher death rate. But maybe our politicians just have to accept that, given the alternatives.

      Leaving economic consequences aside, the toll on mental/emotional health has been huge according to what I have read. And who knows what the long-term mental health effects will be.

      There are probably also some deaths that will be attributed not to the virus but to the shutdown of medical resources. Who knows what the end result of postponed surgeries will be, if there is increased morality due to the delays. We’ll never know what conditions were not caught because there was no preventative health care.

      My wife had a heart condition diagnosed as a result of her annual physical – a condition that left untreated could have killed her. In 2021 there are no physicals being scheduled.

      How many people will fall through those cracks? We’ll never know.

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