There’s no escaping the trade-off

It was kind of surreal to see headlines this week like, “Prime Minister is breathing on his own” and “Prime Minster able to take short walks“. No one could ever have imagined this a couple of months ago. The latest news is that the Prime Minister appears to be recovering and has left intensive care. I do think Boris Johnson should have handed over responsibility to someone else before going into hospital. He asked Dominic Raab to deputise for him but what exactly does that mean? During one of the press briefings last week a journalist asked Dominic Raab whether he had the power to make decisions now and Raab looked very uncomfortable and couldn’t answer in the affirmative. According to this article, he does not have full prime ministerial responsibility which is very worrying. What if the Prime Minister had become seriously ill and unconscious?

The British government bought 3.5 million antibody tests in the hope these could pave the way to restarting the economy but unfortunately, they don’t work. That is disappointing. But maybe it was a false hope anyway given this Austrian study which finds less than 1% of the Austrian population is infected. If the number infected is far lower than we think then this is going to continue for a long time.

There were nearly 1,000 deaths in the UK yesterday and this is just deaths in hospital. We now have a higher single daily death toll than Spain and Italy. I’m reminded of all the articles I read a month or so ago that explained Italy’s toll was so high due to an aging population. I guess that was wrong.

There’s a good panel discussion in the NY Times about when and how to return to normality – Restarting America means people will die. So when do we do it? It is false to say the choice is between saving lives or saving the economy. Lives will be lost in both scenarios but lockdowns will disproportionately affect the poor.

If we’re thinking of a year to 18 months of this kind of lockdown, then we really do need to think about the consequences other than in terms of deaths from Covid-19. I think the consequences are horrific, in terms of unemployment in particular, which has been shown to have a very serious effect on well-being, and particularly for poorer people. Are we really going to be able to continue an assistance package to all of those people for 18 months?

It’s worth pointing out that the poorest people around the world will not get any assistance package.

I feel somewhat alone in my thinking right now – most people see closing businesses as essential to saving lives. This is true for the short-term, but I don’t think people are thinking long-term. Lives will be lost because businesses are closed. And if we open businesses, lives will be lost due to COVID-19. There’s no simple solution. And I don’t think I’m biased when I say this. I’m slightly left-leaning politically speaking, I’ve always worked from home and my job has not been affected – I’m still working full time. The kids are enrolled in an online school so it’s all business as normal for them, and my husband is also still working full-time. We also didn’t have a social life before all this so nothing much has changed for us. I’ve never liked large gatherings of people, and cycling in Aberdeen right now is better than it has ever been. I’m also noticing and enjoying the cleaner air, indeed many lives will be saved thanks to clean air. But the best thing about all this is finally the world is critically questioning the long-term viability of factory farming. If this virus brings about an end to factory farming then it will have achieved in a very short space of time what animal rights campaigners have been trying but failing to do for decades. Despite all this, I can’t shake the grim reality that people will suffer and die as a result of government lockdowns and the collapse of economies around the world. We cannot ignore that. There’s already been a concerning rise in non-coronavirus deaths in Scotland, women will die from domestic violence, and poor people around the world are literally starving to death.

7 thoughts on “There’s no escaping the trade-off”

      1. Don’t forget that the 3% figure is a snapshot on the 1st April, not a cumulative total to that date. If you take the 1.4 million figure for 5th April as representative of the lockdown situation and you imagine that total made up from people all going through their 7 days of self-isolation, that would suggest 1.4m/7 = 200,000 people catching it per day. However, that’s still not great – for the population of the UK – 66m – that requires 198 days to get to 60% infected (if our strategy is still herd immunity).

        One possibility for a trying to restart the economy which I haven’t seen floated is the idea of a short working week (maybe 2 days initially) with lockdown “weekends”.

  1. Yes, it’s a grim way to possibly end the grimness of factory farming. It’s long been known that self-interest is what drives most people most of the time – and finally here’s something that may drive that self-interest enough to bring an end to the mass atrocities inflicted on farmed animals. Whatever works, eh?

  2. It strikes me as similar to the self driving car problem (think that is your post from a while ago?) – do you program it to kill three people or one in the event of an accident. It’s not politic to say that anyone is allowed to die therefore we struggle on not saying it/thinking about it, even if it would save more lives in the long run to step back and look at what all the implications of the lockdown are.

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