Reflections on the Quarantine

Reflections on the Quarantine

May 16, 2020 0 By aure

In early March 2020, I wrote a letter to the rector of the university, urging her to close the university as soon as possible to prevent the propagation of the virus.

At the time, her office answered by telling me it was normal I was scared of what the media were telling me and that there was no reason to do anything at that moment, which spurred a couple of thoughts.

First of all, the university, as an institution, is not supposed to consider the media like the fear-mongering business that it is because (and that’s the second point) if they did, they’d have the moral obligation to do something about it.

Furthermore, as I found this response rather condescending, I urged all my classmates to send the rector an email as well.

History does not tell if they did, but a week after they told me that the university would stay open, the university…was closed. The quarantine had started.

Upon reading about the quarantine and after deep introspection, I have come to change my mind.

I believe that 2 months of lockdown have inflicted damages much bigger than it would have had been without a lockdown as we engaged in a conversation on how to not getting sick instead of how to survive (and the answer is certainly not by being vegan).

I develop below a non-exhaustive list of arguments against the lockdown and why we made the mistake.

The Economic Cost

It might be the most important argument because in the world we live in, the economy IS everything. People can eat at a cheap cost because the food market is efficient, taxes allow to have the hospitals running, the schools and universities teaching and the army protecting the country.

Supply and demand of households allow people to choose the accommodation of their choice and not sleep in the street and the capitalist job market favors those with the best skills and that are most productive.

The economy is what gets the world running, it even pays for religion (and not the other way around). When you artificially stop the economy, you prevent all these forces from properly functioning.

The lockdown essentially decreased the speed and volume of spending, and since a man’s spending is another man’s income, a lot of income have bottomed. Like a game of domino, if spending stops, it sends a shock into the entire cycle (called the bullwhip effect) and destabilizes the process. This is essentially what happened.

The Financial Cost

As you could see though, people that owned restaurants and closed them got a stimulus check to help them live the time they were closed. Employees that couldn’t work got that too. However, these spendings were not accounted for in the yearly state budget, and so the state had to borrow money to give it.

When the state borrows, it must eventually pay back. The debt of the country is paid back by taxpayers’ money, and so closing the economy will not only be super expensive for current taxpayers but even more so for future generations (although, we could avoid that, as I’ll explain in a future article).

The Mental Cost

If you’re human (and there are quite some chances that you are), you know we are not made to live inside, even if “inside” is a big house. We like to go from one place to another (someone told me it is called “traveling”), see different people, being alone at times, working, then resting, playing some video games, etc. We are constantly doing “things” responding to a need and stop doing them once the need has been fulfilled.

As such, this lockdown has been particularly health destructive, first of all for people who live alone. Loneliness is, as you may have read, particularly detrimental to mental health. We need to add to that the boredom of not being able to go anywhere. As the lockdown continues, motivation decreases, junk food makes its way in, we go to sleep later and later, lose the will to do anything, and eventually enter some sort of depressive state.

It is too early to say what will be the final toll on mental health, and we will probably never know for sure. However, mental health directly affects the economy in terms of productivity, which is something else to account for.

The Social Cost

As the lockdown was easing itself at the end of March 2020 in China, a spike in the number of divorces was reported. We need to understand that in normal times, couples already don’t see each other much and yet, manage to get divorced (unless the reason to divorce is for not seeing each other). So after spending a time quarantined together, it is evident that they quickly got sick of each other. This is simply another human aspect of social relationships: too much is too much.

The same can be said for roommates and (much more dramatic) for children. In normal times, a fair amount of children get molested by members of their families, and the lockdown, with school closures, only made things worse. God knows the long-term consequences that this virus will have on these kids. The same thing can be said for women victims of violent partners.

Bringing It All Together

It’s only my personal opinion, but I am afraid that the economic, financial, social, and mental (and all the others I haven’t talked about) side effects outweigh the consequences of not locking down. I believe that children and women, low-income workers, students, unemployed…should not pay the price of a quarantined society.

I believe we could have created a solidarity system around the elderly to protect them against the virus. Who knows, maybe fat people and smokers would have inclined to start taking care of their health? I may be wrong. God, I certainly am. We probably haven’t finished talking about the consequences of this lockdown any time soon.

Where Did We Go Wrong?

Not many people saw it at the time, but the lockdown was a public health policy response (not a military one, it’s not a “war” like some Western leaders declared). And when it comes to healthcare, the West has been failing since the second world war.

By asking the question “how can we protect people against the virus”, we concluded that the answer “lockdown” was the most appropriate. And it certainly was. The question though wasn’t the correct one. The correct question was “how can people survive the virus even if they get it”. To that question, the correct answer was “through the development of effective public health policies”.

The reason why people died from the virus was (in the majority of cases) because they were already sick before the virus. Had we had a healthy population where the consumption of good food is encouraged, sports opportunities are plentiful, and work and class schedule allows for optimal sleep, the virus would have created as much panic as the flu.

Hopefully, we will soon start thinking a bit more about designing a healthcare system. Not a “sick-care” one.

Photo credits: Photo by Juan Davila on Unsplash