IMPATIENT

Easing lockdown must be orderly and responsible

Workers, business owners and governments are restive.

In Summary
  • Citizens everywhere are tired of the daily tally of Covid-19 morbidity and mortality that have become the daily staple served by heads of governments or their surrogates.
  • They want their businesses and economies open again. Around the world, businesses are haemorrhaging revenue.
Congregants at Holy Family Basilica in Nairobi on March 22, 2020.
Congregants at Holy Family Basilica in Nairobi on March 22, 2020.
Image: MERCY MUMO

The new coronavirus, which causes Covid-19, has spread to 185 countries and territories. The disease has killed more than 200,000 people and infected more than 3 million, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University.

An estimated 800,000 infected people have recovered from Covid-19. Governments across the world have instituted lockdown measures to slow down the rate of spread of infection. These measures have caused businesses, formal and informal, large, medium and small, to shut down. Face-to-face learning has been suspended.

Over the last month, US President Donald Trump has pushed hard for the use of hydroxychloroquine to treat Covid-19 patients. The results have been deadly. Just last week, Donald Trump suggested the use of ultraviolet irradiation. While Trump's ideas are outlandish, they represent a virulent hopelessness and impatience with the pandemic.

 

After weeks of lockdown, nerves are frayed. Workers, business owners and governments are restive. Citizens everywhere are tired of the daily tally of Covid-19 morbidity and mortality that have become the daily staple served by heads of governments or their surrogates. They want their businesses and economies open again. Around the world, businesses are haemorrhaging revenue.

Governments are facing blistering tax income contraction. When they most need it, governments are running out of resources to fight the Covid-19 pandemic. Governments are caving in to pressure and we might see the beginning of a phased ending to lockdown in the next couple of weeks. This is a dangerous unchartered territory.

One or a couple of lockdown regimes is not sufficient to contain the ebb and flow of Covid-19 without allowing it to surge uncontrollably and in many places. Some form of lockdown will be needed as long as we don’t have a cure or a vaccine. Hence, we must brace ourselves for cycles of lockdown and cautious easing.

In Singapore and Hong Kong, a new and quickly rising second peak of Covid-19 infections now demonstrates how easily the SARS-Cov-2 virus can return. We must not succumb to political and economic pressure to ease measures of social distancing, stay at home and isolation.

One or a couple of lockdown regimes is not sufficient to contain the ebb and flow of Covid-19 without allowing it to surge uncontrollably and in many places. Some form of lockdown will be needed as long as we don’t have a cure or a vaccine. Hence, we must brace ourselves for cycles of lockdown and cautious easing.

New research shows that communities that imposed tough containment measures promptly blunted the spread of the 1918 influenza pandemic. These cities saved lives and experienced markedly strong economic recovery.

China’s decisive and sustained 76-day lockdown measures have been very effective. Wuhan city is reopening but social distancing measures, use of face covering outdoors will be maintained. Only healthy workers and consumers can grow a robust economy

Coronavirus is a deadly respiratory virus. It poses grave danger to the health and prosperity of nations. Without a cure or a vaccine, we must take strong, uncompromising measures to limit community spread.

 

We must direct high levels of resources to active syndromic surveillance, testing, contact tracing and isolation. China sliding to the bottom of the Covid-19 cases league table is proof that the spread of the virus can be contained with early and appropriate measures. Herd immunity is a more perilous path.