Covid: ‘The cure is worse than the disease’
Is it time we learnt to live with the virus? Governments across the world are imposing harsher restrictions to reduce further outbreaks. But some believe this will do more harm than good.
You could almost hear the groans echoing across Britain as Boris Johnson made his latest announcement: “Here we go again,” people were thinking. The prime minister was outlining new measures to control the pandemic, such as curfews for restaurants – and warning that they might not be lifted for six months.
Some welcomed the measures. They pointed to the alarming rise in cases: 40% up on the previous week. The easing of restrictions, they argued, had gone too far, too fast.
But many are unconvinced. They claim that politicians who see lockdowns as the answer are misguided, and reimposing restrictions whenever the infection rate rises will only make things worse.
One such person is Professor Carl Heneghan of Oxford University. He says we must accept that the virus is here to stay and live our lives as normally as possible while behaving sensibly to minimise the risks.
According to Professor Mark Woolhouse of Edinburgh University, lockdowns harm the economy, education and people’s mental health. He proposes focussing on protecting the vulnerable.
Others, though, are more cautious. They argue that to maintain herd immunity from established diseases like German measles, 95% of children have to be vaccinated.
Is it time we learned to live with the virus?
Some say, yes. We should regard Covid as we do the other viruses we have to cope with, such as flu, AIDS and SARS. The best we can hope for is to achieve herd immunity. Lockdowns do more harm than good, particularly to the poorest members of society.
Others insist that we need to take every precaution we can, particularly while Covid is so much of a mystery. Viruses are constantly mutating, and can recur in stronger forms as well as weaker ones; one strain of flu can kill far more people than another.
- If you were offered a vaccination against Covid-19 that had just been developed and approved, would you accept it?
- Imagine you are the owner of a bar or restaurant and have been ordered to close your doors at 10pm. Write a letter to the government explaining why you think this is wrong.
Some People Say...
“May we think of freedom, not as the right to do as we please, but as the opportunity to do what is right.”Peter Marshall (1902–1949), American clergyman
What do you think?
Q & A
- What do we know?
- It is generally agreed that even though there is still a lot to learn about Covid-19, we are much better placed to deal with it than we were at the start of the year. Two steroid treatments have been found that reduce the risk of death in the very ill. Medical staff know to look out for particular problems, such as kidney damage and blood clots. Since everyone is aware that older people are especially at risk, both they and those around them are taking more precautions.
- What do we not know?
- One main area of debate is over how much we should trust testing and statistics. Professor Heneghan worries that the Covid test is oversensitive, picking up traces of the virus long after someone ceases to be infectious. Others argue that governments should not base their decisions on the number of people admitted to hospital as these have usually been infected weeks earlier. By the time there is a spike in admissions, it may already be too late for anything other than drastic action.
- Occasions when closing down is enforced or movement is restricted. It originally applied to the extinguishing of fires in people’s houses.
- Open to harm. It derives from a Latin verb meaning to injure.
- When a small amount of a virus is used to stimulate the body’s immune system. The word derives from the Latin for cow, since the first vaccination was developed to combat smallpox using a virus which affected cattle.
- Acute Immune Deficiency Syndrome. It interferes with the immune system, leaving sufferers more vulnerable to common diseases. Around the world, almost 40 million people are believed to be living with the condition .
- Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome, a disease which makes it very difficult to breathe.
- Changing. A famous Latin phrase, “mutatis mutandis”, meaning “once the necessary changes have been made”, is commonly used in law, economics and logic.