AA Edit | Hindsight disfavours lockdowns

The Asian Age.

Opinion, Edit

Science may have delayed reopening to 2022 when it could have been done a year earlier without causing such economic and social disruption

File photo of lockdown being imposed in Chennai. (Photo: PTI)

There isn’t anything quite as full of wisdom as hindsight. When Rishi Sunak, now the underdog in the political race to Prime Ministership of the UK, opened up on how much his country would have been better off had it not allowed experts, epidemiologists and scientists so much power to decide on lockdowns, he set off a debate in which he too was ridiculed.

When the coronavirus Covid-19, in its alpha to delta forms, attacked the world, there were few who could have resisted the loud call of science to put lives in lockdown in the hope the infectious pathogen would go away. Until medicine grappled with solutions as it studied the virus and came up with treatment protocols and science came up with the vaccine in January 2021, very few had possessed the wisdom to question the crippling shutdown.

As many as 225 nations lost at least one person to Covid while five of the smallest dots on the atlas like Falkland Islands or a compact but more populated area like the Vatican City escaped without a fatality. There were a few Nordic countries that defied the doomsday pundits and kept their economies open, but could not avoid deaths or stamp out the fear among their people. Those who suffered the most fatalities were the USA, India, Brazil, Russia and Mexico.

It may not have helped that the lockdowns did incredible damage to the world economy. Even so, some like China, New Zealand and Australia followed zero Covid policies until its foolishness became apparent as the protection of the vaccine, herd immunity and seroprevalence began kicking in and Covid became more of an endemic disease causing fewer deaths than even the seasonal flu.

If humanity had had the foresight, the global economy would not have been shut down like this though it would have been impossible to say that when bodies were lining up for cremation or burial and the health infra had no ready supply of oxygen to help the most affected in the waves of mid-2021 in India. Truth to tell, science may have delayed the major reopening to 2022 when it could have been done a year earlier without causing such economic and social disruption.

Going forward, do we have the ability to correct, particularly in the major and challenging areas like the balance having tipped totally towards the rich, the yawning education gap between the tech capable and the poor and the loss of jobs, except in the gig economy, many parts of which flourished during the pandemic.