No more lockdowns – now what?

Closed booths at Store Bay beach facility in Tobago on September 29 . Now that the World Health Organization (WHO) has admitted that lockdowns do not actually benefit the general population in relation to curbing the pandemic, the results of our own lockdown on employment and social mobility will have to be reassessed. - AYANNA KINSALE
Closed booths at Store Bay beach facility in Tobago on September 29 . Now that the World Health Organization (WHO) has admitted that lockdowns do not actually benefit the general population in relation to curbing the pandemic, the results of our own lockdown on employment and social mobility will have to be reassessed. - AYANNA KINSALE

Now that the World Health Organization (WHO) has admitted that lockdowns do not actually benefit the general population in relation to curbing the pandemic, the results of our own lockdown on employment and social mobility will have to be reassessed.

When 6,000 epidemiologists from Oxford University and Harvard Medical School, together with 73,100 other thoughtful, scientifically-minded people have signed the Barrington Declaration someone has to listen.

It did not say that lockdowns should be stopped: they can’t say that or they would lose their jobs, I guess, but that is what they are implying – saying that lockdowns should be used as a last resort for targeted groups, like prisoners or people in care homes.

So where does it leave businesses in TT that have already closed down?

What the WHO is now saying is that the spread of poverty due to job losses will double by 2021. Already, there has been an increase of child abuse at home and impairment of children’s intellectual development due to a lack of schooling at a stage vital to brain growth. These cannot be reversed.

The WHO itself predicts a doubling of malnourishment in children and mental illness from depression and press-induced fear by next year.

For the past six months, there has been limited availability of medical treatment for other serious illnesses such as cancer and diabetes owing to coronavirus focus by medical services – damage that may not be reversible.

And not even considered by the WHO list of scientists are the closure of hospitality organisations, the collapse of small and medium-sized businesses all along the procurement and supply chains that support those industries, to say nothing of transport and ancillary industries, many of which will never reopen, causing the economic fallout like dominoes to knock down one after the other.

They now say simply keeping a social distance, washing your hands with soap and water frequently and not sneezing or coughing in someone else’s face – what your mother told you since you were a child – is more effective than a lockdown.

Wearing a mask, whatever you think of the effectiveness of some of the paper-thin ones, at least serves as an effective reminder to keep the distance rules, which are effective. WHO has wavered back and forth on its policies on masks, but they have served their purpose.

Covid19 exists, but the new pronouncement says it is not as dangerous to children as the ordinary flu, which we all got at some point.

Send children back to school. Let their mothers go back to work. Let sunshine and salt water and Tobago hospitality do their work.

What all this brings to mind is the financial and systematic collapse allowed by a well-meaning government of employment in our seriously over-staffed and underperforming public service.

The one-day-on, one-day-off work on full pay highlighted by the Prime Minister’s castigation last week didn’t need publicising. The lack of discipline and long delays in obtaining essential documents demanded by the same government in order to allow anyone to conduct business, the cumbersome bureaucracy that the President and almost all business and social organisations have pointed out, have existed for decades. Millions have been spent on Gordon Draper-like exercises for public service reform and ignored by the same institutions that were meant to be reformed.

It is like asking MPs and parliamentarians to agree to a cap on their own tax benefits.

Where do you think you live? New Zealand? Public service reform to correct over-staffing and hiring for political reasons has been advocated and ignored for years.

I once asked a group of people in a state-owned enterprise if any of them had had a politician help them to get their jobs. None of them would admit that they had, although their records showed otherwise.

The WHO is likewise a politically staffed organisation and it is financed by governments that hate to admit they could be wrong.

The chances of that changing are as likely as parliamentarians voting to cap their own tax benefits
. At least the Prime Minister bought and drives one car, a modest one and does not look for loopholes whereby to take advantage of that perk.

What the limited about-turn by the WHO has done, which is far more important, is that it has caused people worldwide to distrust the governments that imposed the lockdowns in the first place. There is a new awareness that their suffering was a result of governments blindly following political advice from politically appointed international bodies – sheep following sheep – encouraged by media looking for something to sensationalise.

And realising that we, faithful obedient sheep that we are, followed blindly in their wake shames us. All we had to do was wash our hands, wear masks and keep our distance.

They thought that quoting “science” made it right.

Who can we trust in the future? Science? Who do we trust, knowing that it was not a good decision, either economically or medically? That lockdowns have caused the poorest to have genuinely suffered the most?

The 90 per cent have not grown richer during the pandemic, as have a significant minority. While some asked for food aid there was a rise in the international stock markets – the Dow Jones, the Nasdaq, the Shanghai Composite, the Shenzhen, the Nikkei have all risen. (This is not a secret, it is all available on Google.) Some businesses, those with fewest employees, have done well.

But we still cannot eat in a restaurant with a friend, as our lockdown restrictions have not lifted. And if there is one thing we have to learn, it is to obey the law.

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"No more lockdowns – now what?"

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