Right at the head of this article, I want to make one thing clear: I am not a doctor, nor any kind of expert on epidemiology or viral infections. Everything that I write is coming from a political and societal point of view rather than a place of medical knowledge. It seems to me, however, that the coronavirus crisis, which has engulfed this year and looks set to dominate much of the next one at least, has somewhat reached a crossroads.
You see, we have reached the end of the summer and what looks potentially to be the beginning of the fabled “second wave” in many parts of the world, and with an air of fatigue and stagnation among the general population. I don’t think anyone could possibly argue that this hasn’t dragged on, and at this point a large number of people are ready to ask “what next?”. For a while now, things for the average person haven’t been getting any worse, but they haven’t really been getting any better either, and with autumn and winter approaching, it feels like something has to give.
What of it, then? At this point it seems unlikely that we’re going to see much further “relaxation” of measures between now and the end of this year. The advent of the “second wave”, should it be anything like the first wave which sent large swathes of the global population into strict lockdown, will put paid to that. Even if not, however, the fear of the second wave, and the continued existence of the virus in and around all of us, will probably hold most governments back from relaxing measures in any meaningful way.
On the other hand, should there be a large spike in case numbers, are we going to have another period like in spring, where the world goes back into hibernation? It’s not impossible, but at this point I would guess that it’s not incredibly probable either. Governments at this point will want to have one eye on the economy, and another lockdown would likely obliterate what is left of most of the world’s financial arm. Of course, that begs ethical questions, but answering those is why politicians are paid so handsomely.
We cannot go on living like this forever
Where do we draw the line between keeping people safe and trying to preserve the economy? What is an acceptable level of risk? These two questions are the defining ones of our era. For me, ideologically, it presents a dilemma. I don’t for a moment believe that “old people” have any less inherent value than anyone else, and therefore could not in good faith support a reopening of the world based on the fact that the disease seems to disproportionately affect the elderly and those with pre-existing medical conditions. On the other hand, there is a libertarian streak in my psyche which feels uncomfortable with the reach that governments across the world have made in order to restrict the spread of the virus, and would like for that to not last very long at all if possible.
Where do I draw the line between those two conflicting opinions? I don’t know, but with no real end in sight to this, it’s a question I’m definitely asking myself. Saving the successful introduction of a vaccine, it will only become more prevalent. Eradicating the virus via “social distancing” alone at this point looks nigh on impossible to me, and in any case we cannot go on living like this forever. Something has to give, and at this moment I’m glad I’m not the person who has to make that decision.