It has been some time since I have started a post with these words. On 16 June, I wrote:
For the record, we’re at 7.8 million reported Covid-19 cases. On 30 May, it was 5.9 million.
Today, for the record, we’re at over 24 million reported cases, with more than 800,000 deaths.
All over globe, we have a resurgence of Covid-19 cases. OK, one step back. We see countries, which are not even in a state where we could call the increase in cases a resurgence, simply as they never achieved any level of control over the pandemic in the first place. The USA, Brazil, India, just to name the most obvious ones.
But we have many European countries, or South Korea, or New Zealand, where we see substantially increased case and death numbers. Many are back to March or April levels. Now we should see if these countries have made good use of the time, and the knowledge and experience gained, to put some kind of structured control system in place.
I am not too optimistic. Yes, most of these countries have proactive and reactive measures in place, like testing, quarantine upon entering from higher risk countries, mask wearing mandates, and so on. But adapting or extending such measures to new facts on the ground often seems ad-hoc, and not the result of a continuous process, that is, analysing the data, and, based thereupon, setting up new or adapted measures from a predefined systematic course of action, and not by the seats of the pants. Or worse, daily politics.
Case in point, consider the haphazard discussions about the opening of schools, resulting in blatant failures and hastily closing them down again in quite a few cases.
There are countries which have demonstrated some level of systematic reactions to the latest outbreaks, such as South Korea, or New Zealand. Decisive actions, structured and measured, country-wide. A no-nonsense will to get the upper hand again. A firm knowledge that to fix the economy and society, they must first control the virus.
We, the People
In any case, measures are only as effective as the people who implement them. That’s us. Much has been written in the past months, with the sometimes drastic restrictions and regulations, about how governments must not overreach, but put trust in the people, their committment to personal responsibility towards others and the common good.
I fully agree with that. But – people go on vacation abroad? Throw big parties indoors? All that in the midst of a global pandemic, with a virus that, as we have learned, can have devastating long-term health problems. A sneaky virus that is highly infectious without any symptoms, in particular indoors. “I don’t care if I catch it” is not a reasonable and responsible modus operandi in such circumstances.
Yes, I am aware that the tourist industry is economically suffering. I live in Mauritius, remember? You know, the “holiday paradise”. But please, nobody tell me that all the people that went, or go, on holidays now want to help the hotels and tourist operators. That would be some ludicrous excuse.
I do get that people want to get out and away after the period of lockdowns and other restrictions. I really do. In principle. You could even argue in general that we all live our comfy lives even though we know that, say, people in war zones are suffering at the same time, and I’ll admit that it takes a slightly schizophrenic streak every day to reconcile the two facts – if you think about it. So why should going on vacation, while others are suffering a terrible pandemic, be different? For starters, because if you go on vacation now, you directly endanger your family, your neighbours, your compatriots. If that does not hit home, I don’t know what does.
Has our need for instant gratification, whatever the risk and cost, become so all-devouring, all-encompassing? Where is the virtue of a decent level of stoicism and self-containment, so much needed in times like this? Marcus Aurelius would not approve, I am pretty certain. Or veiled his face, as they were wont to do in the Old Ages, in the face of human deficiency and recklessness. Note that veiling the face would also have provided excellent virus protection.
Of course now the case numbers are going up again, with all the travelling. It’s exactly what created the pandemic outbreak all over the globe in the first place, if on a much more intense level back in February and March. Yes, today the majority of people are cautious, considerate, and respectful of each other’s health. But, alas, unfortunately it takes only a few egoists to blow it.
So, bottom line, no, I don’t think we can put much trust in the people – remember, that’s us – as a whole in this case. I think one of the reason is the invisibility of the danger for most. In the story of their lives they are the main characters, with little perceived risks for themselves, and which director would kill off the main character anyway, right? In times of war, or some other dramatic calamity with well-visible and possibly daily risks and losses, people are better to hold together. Or band together. Historically, the big unifying forces have been hate, fear, and racism. An invisible virus does not fit the pattern.
I have come across this quip the other day:
If you’re not annoyed by what you do to protect others and yourself, you’re probably not doing enough.
There. I hope you’re really annoyed.