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.

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 much bigger damages than life as usual would have been with a virus.

I develop below a non-exhaustive list of arguments against the lockdown.

The Economic Cost

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 for homes enable people to choose the accommodation of their choice and not sleep in the street. The 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 from society properly functioning.

As such, the lockdown 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 system.

The Financial Cost

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 payback. The debt of the country is paid back by taxpayers’ money. Closing the economy will not only be expensive for current taxpayers but even more so for future generations.

The Mental Cost

Humans are not made to live inside. We like to go from one place to another, see different people, being alone at times, working, then resting, playing some video games, etc. We are constantly doing “things”, because that’s in our nature.

As such, this lockdown has been particularly health destructive, especially for people who live alone. Loneliness is particularly detrimental to mental health. In absence of stimulation, the brain decays. 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 estimate with certainty the effect of the lockdown on mental health. However, several publications have already reported an increase in suicide rates.

The Social Cost

As the lockdown was easing itself at the end of March 2020 in China, experts reported a spike in the number of divorces. 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). After spending time quarantined together, it is evident that they quickly got sick of each other. This is 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. The lockdown, with school closures, only made things worse. God knows the long-term consequences that this virus will have on these kids. Furthermore, experts have reported an increase in calls from women victims of violent partners.

Bringing It All Together

The economic, financial, social, and mental (and all the others I haven’t talked about) side effects of the lockdown outweigh the consequences of not locking down. At the end, children, women, low-income workers, students, unemployed…are paying a heavy price for a quarantined society.

I think we should have created a solidarity system around the elderly to protect them against the virus, instead of locking everyone up. I think the whole of society should not have to pay a price because of overweight people and smokers, victims most at risk of the virus.

Where Did We Go Wrong?

The lockdown was a public health policy response. However, 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. That was the wrong question. The correct question was “how can people survive the virus even if they get it”?

The answer is “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, this crisis will encourage governments to change their healthcare public policies and insist on prevention. It’s time to have a look at the cause, and not merely fix the consequences.

Photo credits: Photo by Juan Davila on Unsplash