Many governments imposed short-lived lockdowns during the first wave of COVID-19 to help stop the spread of the virus in their countries. As we head deeper into the second wave, that dreaded battle cry has been ringing across the lands once more.
Several European nations, including France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Portugal, Belgium and the United Kingdom, have instituted national lockdown measures. Parts of Asia, Southeast Asia and Africa also have partial or full lockdowns in place.
In our neck of the woods, Ontario Premier Doug Ford instituted a 28-day lockdown that will almost coincide with Christmas. Some small business owners are worried they won’t survive long enough to attract consumers and earn a living in the run-up to the holidays.
People shouldn’t be surprised that a second wave of the coronavirus developed. Most major health pandemics throughout human history have faced multiple waves that crossed the globe, causing illness and death. This includes the 1889-1890 Russian flu, four waves of the Spanish flu between 1918 and 1920 and, of course, the Black Death (1347 to 1351).
Many COVID-19-like and influenza viruses, with the notable exception of the Spanish flu, have thrived in the harsh winter weather in second waves. While COVID-19 didn’t have to follow a similar pattern, the chances were greater that history would repeat itself.
If so, why weren’t we more prepared?
It’s nearly impossible to protect society from every conceivable downturn and pitfall. You can prepare for the best and worst, but only to a certain point. Some things will occur unexpectedly and others will be left to chance.
The models that were released detailing potential trends in COVID-19 cases, growth patterns and deaths weren’t set in stone. They provided snapshots of what could happen if people didn’t properly employ social/physical distancing, wash their hands, wear masks in public spaces and so forth.
To use a little mathematical logic, simply assuming variant X wouldn’t materialize as long as variants Y and Z were a continuous part of the equation is unwise. What if X morphed into W, or V?
That small shift would change the entire scenario, and a new narrative would be created that was unforeseen and could be better or worse.
Then why are facing temporary lockdowns again?
The science surrounding COVID-19 is an obvious starting point. Most of our political leaders aren’t medically trained. Even those who are trained have almost nothing to do with the narrow specialty of infectious diseases.
Hence, the experts in this field are the ones we naturally listen to. If they suggest short-term lockdowns are the best way to contain the spread of COVID-19, most politicians will seriously examine this possibility.
This creates a shift from the science of lockdowns to the politics of lockdowns.
It goes without saying that lockdowns hurt society. The cost to individuals is enormous, leading to financial deficits and debts that will either be slowly repaid at microscopic interest rates, or mostly ignored by future generations.
The cost to business is equally enormous, as it forces many employers and employees to close their doors, stay home and be unable to earn a proper living.
Political leaders of the left, right and centre are therefore forced to spend billions of taxpayer dollars to create droves of financial relief programs for individuals and businesses to stay afloat during a pandemic. The new and existing costs skyrocket to a point where your eyes bulge out, and any hope of them returning to your sockets disappears for time immemorial.
Do politicians really want to do this?
Of course not. Most don’t want to be seen as the primary reason why people are out of work and businesses are shuttered. They don’t want to be viewed as the source that kept limiting individual rights and freedoms, either. It would ruin their names, reputations and political fortunes.
Then again, if they don’t listen to the experts, they’ll be widely condemned by political rivals. They also risk the possibility of a huge rise in COVID-19 cases and deaths, which could end their political careers in a heartbeat.
That’s why political leaders have typically erred on the side of caution with respect to lockdowns during COVID-19. It’s understandable, whether you agree or disagree with them.
But if our political leaders don’t learn any lessons and create better safeguards during a lockdown period, people will keep lashing out. To date, many of them haven’t – and that’s why the general public is more frustrated and fed up now than during the first wave.
Thank goodness several vaccines appear to be on the way. A third wave of COVID-19, followed by a third lockdown, would have been impossible to bear.
Michael Taube, a Troy Media syndicated columnist and Washington Times contributor, was a speechwriter for former prime minister Stephen Harper. He holds a master’s degree in comparative politics from the London School of Economics.