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When will the cure be worse than the disease?

16 1 1

MELBOURNE, Australia/OXFORD, England – As of today, almost half the world’s population, nearly 4 billion people, are under government-mandated lockdowns in an effort to stop the spread of COVID-19.

How long should the lockdowns last? The obvious answer, to paraphrase British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, is until we’ve “beaten” COVID-19. But when exactly will that be? Until not a single person on Earth has it? That may never happen. Until we have a vaccine, or an effective treatment? That could easily be a year away, perhaps much longer. Do we want to keep people locked down, our societies shuttered — restaurants, parks, schools and offices closed — for that long?

It pains us to say it, but U.S. President Donald Trump is right: “We cannot let the cure be worse than the disease.” Lockdowns have health benefits: fewer will die of COVID-19, as well as other transmissible diseases. But they have real social and economic costs: social isolation, unemployment and widespread bankruptcies, to name three. These ills are not yet fully apparent, but they soon will be.

Some people insist that there is, in practice, no trade-off: Lockdowns are better for saving lives and the economy. This seems to be wishful thinking. Presumably, such people are supposing lockdowns will end soon. But if we end lockdowns before vanquishing COVID-19, some people will die from the disease who otherwise would have lived. It’s not so simple to escape the trade-off between saving lives and saving livelihoods.

It seems safe to say that the right time to end the lockdowns is sometime between today and ten years. But that’s not very........

© The Japan Times