Are we managing Covid properly?

Coronavirus” by danielfoster437 is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0.

It’s hard trying to raise awareness of governments’ failure to manage the pandemic properly.

It shouldn't be, but it is.

Why, and why keep going:

1. There is a small but powerful minority who want the public to forget about Covid, even if that means more death and disability.

Consumer confidence is hit hard when people are constantly reminded of Covid by masks and warning notices and the need to self-isolate. And when money is on the table we see co-ordinated disinformation campaigns and tactics (some nasty) to suppress those who are raising concerns.

2. There is another group, not really motivated by money, who rail at the thought of further mandates to control Covid. In fairness, many of them have suffered greatly either through loss of livelihood or loss of loved ones due to the secondary effects of restrictions (as have I).

In this same group, there are those who are avoiding fear or genuinely would rather take the risk Covid carries in order to live normally. Often this leads to minimising the threat, twisting facts to lower the fear, and acting aggressively towards those raising concern.

3. The third group, and for me the most difficult, is those who are worried about Covid. They tend to be doing all the right things to reduce the risk but remain at the mercy of the will of the Government and those choosing not to do anything.

It is an odd situation where those who are worried need not be worried further (they are already doing everything they can) and those who aren't worried at all probably need to be more worried (at least some of them).

The disinformation campaigns have been so successful that it is probably wrong to feel resentment against those not wearing masks, self-isolating, getting vaccinated. Much of the population genuinely believe the risks of Covid are so low that it doesn't really matter anymore.

It is, after all, what they have been fed both directly through various media outlets and various stakeholders, but also indirectly by the lack of coverage of deaths, Long Covid, hospital capacity, etc… by mainstream media.

But many of these people, were they to know the truth that Covid remains one of the highest risk diseases to most (certainly all adults) and that basic things work – masks, self-isolation, ventilation (opening a window), and vaccines – would change tack.

There are even some (I venture they represent a significant proportion) who would, if they knew the risk to others with high risk conditions – leukaemia patients, those on immunosuppressed medications, diabetics, cancer patients, etc.. – would take precautions FOR them, to protect them.

So then, here we are, in a situation where those likely to engage the attempts to get the government and the public to do more to protect themselves and others, are the very ones who are already worried and doing what they can, and those who should worry (or care) more aren't.

Are we managing Covid properly?

No. Many countries – US, Australia, UK and others – have chosen to do less, not because the numbers are saying ‘now is the time’ nor because Covid has changed in some way to make it less of a threat.

The decision to do less has been a political and commercial one, where we, the people, are more valuable as consumers than we are as sentient human beings. Our actual interests are not under consideration, merely the interests of a few.

For example, there is no good public reasoning why people who have viral symptoms (cold/flu-like) should not test, and absolutely no reason why they should not (if finances permit) self-isolate. Companies should have to absorb the additional sick leave.

But, as time is showing, the new “normal” is not working. Sickness absences are up, services are disrupted, and forcing people back to work simply means others end up going down with sickness.

The mythical herd immunity is now giving way to variants with the ability to reinfect and the huge burden of Long Covid impacting business and economy all over again.

There is only short-term political and financial gain from "letting it rip", meanwhile everyone else suffers.

The solutions are not difficult. Some politicians and stakeholders would have to admit they got it wrong. This, ego and personal interest from leaders, is the main thing that stands in the way of suppressing the virus and saving lives and livelihoods.

And none of the solutions are by any means dramatic or an affront to liberty (assuming we mean individual freedom and not the freedom of companies to exploit):

  • Mask in enclosed public places. It reduces the chance of getting Covid.
  • Ventilate – open a window, get filtration systems (money spent will be recouped by reduced staff sickness).
  • Self-isolate – if symptomatic, test, and if positive self-isolate. There are a few who will be unable to do this, but the vast majority can. And to knowingly ignore the possibility of having Covid or knowing and spreading it anyway is really at the height of recklessness.

Note, the many countries (those doing better) still mandate isolation of positive cases. It is the most effective way to reduce the spread.

Is it worth it? Is it worth the effort? Are we not all going to get it anyway?

If you are fully vaccinated (boosted) then the risks are much lower. But even with this reduction in risk, Covid remains one of the greatest threats to life and livelihood.

Covid remains in the top three causes of death in most countries, and in the top five in all adult age groups. There isn’t much that can take down a 40 year old, so it is unsurprising to learn Covid remains the number one cause of death in this age group in some countries.

And yes, there is the morality argument; that those who worry the most, those who are at risk the most, should also be permitted some normality. They, too, are at much lower risk, but if you are battling cancer and a bout of Covid sets you back or delays treatment, then it matters

Finally, there is the reality of scientific advancement: that vaccines may soon be able to stop you catching Covid and most likely reduce the increasingly concerning risk of Long Covid. Wouldn’t bet against this happening by the end of the year, but seems plausible within one to two years.

So yes, it is still worth avoiding Covid. Each infection increases the chance of death and disability.

But yes, we must also get on with life. Risks are low enough to venture out with precautions for most.

It is, though, still a failure, this lack of effort to take measures that allow all to have freedom.