There is another way out of these Hotel California lockdowns
With the nights now drawing in, the weather growing more miserable by the day, and another lockdown starting today, this is beginning to feel more like being trapped in the Hotel California.
We’re all just prisoners here, of our own device.
But what if there was a better way out?
According to official figures, Covid-19 cases have been rising again and thus a second national lockdown was pretty much inevitable. Faced with some alarming graphs, what else could be done by the government?
Actually, quite a lot. And there was a clue to it in what Rishi Sunak said in the House of Commons in September when the “rule of six” was announced: we need to learn to live with the virus.
The simple truth is that lockdowns merely defer, they don’t solve the problem. The same is true of social distancing — it makes things better, slows the spread of the virus, and helps protect the NHS, but it doesn’t necessarily answer the exam question of how to “fix” the Covid crisis.
In order to do so, we need an exit plan, or else we will be wearing face coverings and banned from celebrating birthdays in person for years to come.
People are scared to contemplate that this virus might be something we just have to live with. And that’s understandable — never before have death rate figures been beamed into our homes on a daily basis. The relentless focus on deaths and hospital admissions for this one disease has allowed us to become trapped in a catatonic and dystopian state, where the idea of anyone dying, at whatever age and in whatever condition, has become socially unacceptable.
I should stress that I’m no “mask denier” or lockdown-sceptic libertarian per se. Nor am I advocating a “herd immunity” strategy — after all, Sweden has shown that to be a false dawn. But waiting and hoping for a vaccine, while we continue to socially distance, do not amount to an effective plan, not when the overwhelming scientific consensus is that this virus is likely to be in circulation for the foreseeable future.
In order to properly get to grips with the Covid challenge, we need to approach it from a different perspective — one that is proactive and preventative, rather than reactive and restricting. That means ensuring that all premises — schools, shops, offices, restaurants — and means of transport are made as safe from the virus as is humanly possible.
With the right technology and logistics planning, the Covid-secure premises of the future will ensure that the risk of infection is no greater than all the other risks we take in the normal course of our lives. That does not mean the risk is mitigated to zero (despite what we have been led to believe, that is impossible), but rather that it is reduced to an acceptable level — as it is with driving, public transport, and health precautions that enable us to coexist with a host of other viruses.
And that, perhaps, is the key to living with Covid: managing risk to an acceptable level, protecting ourselves, while at the same time allowing business and the economy to return to functioning normally.
And as we enter a second national lockdown which looks set to do irrevocable damage to many businesses and sectors, remember that there is another way back to the place we were before. It’s just that it requires a different way of thinking.
Main image credit: Getty