It’s no question that lockdowns and stay at home orders, and the impending threat of them, have had profoundly negative effects on nearly everyone’s mental health. The damage that prolonged social restrictions have on our wellbeing isn’t surprising. I think there comes a point, after nonstop news and the pandemic completely controlling our lives for two years, where we say enough is enough.
The question we need to ask is, what are we trying to achieve with movement restrictions two years into a global pandemic? At the beginning the goal was to stop the spread of the virus. I think it’s safe to say that strategy has already proven to be ineffective. A study by researchers from the Johns Hopkins Institute for Applied Economics found that lockdowns in Europe and the United States only reduced COVID-19 mortality by 0.2% on average. Quite frankly, any opportunity we may have had to stifle the pandemic is long gone, so why are governments continuing to impose restrictions?
On the World Health Organisation website it states, “[lockdown] measures can have a profound negative impact on individuals, communities, and societies by bringing social and economic life to a near stop. Such measures disproportionately affect disadvantaged groups, including people in poverty, migrants, internally displaced people and refugees, who most often live in overcrowded and under-resourced settings, and depend on daily labour for subsistence.” The gap separating marginalised groups grew wider in several areas — beginning with children without laptops being unable to attend the online courses that quickly replaced in-person classes, and extending to people whose livelihood depends on their restaurants and small businesses.
Our governments should be presenting us with guidelines for what to do based on what they know from scientists and their research at the moment — not restrictions limiting movement and activity. Private businesses should decide what they want to do within their private business. People should decide what they want to do within their homes. The message our governments and the media are and have been sending this entire time is rooted in fear —it’s not delivered through empowerment and critical thinking. People are frustrated and fed up, and reasonable people react poorly in such circumstances.
“Stay 2 metres apart” is... virtually impossible to follow. Especially if you’ve been on a crowded train or plane recently. How are we supposed to adhere to that, even if we desperately wanted to? You go out to a restaurant wearing your mask, you sit down. In most cases, you immediately remove your mask, and you’re closer to strangers than you were wearing it walking down the street in open air. In theory it’s good advice, but in practice it’s ineffective.
Unfortunately, COVID is here to stay. It’s becoming endemic, and something we will have to live with for the rest of our lives. Like most others in our complex world, this situation is filled with many nuances and is a dynamic process. There are risks to consider, especially if you are immuno-compromised or live with someone who is. Millions have died and millions still don’t have access to adequate health care or vaccines, and I don’t want to downplay that. We all need to think critically, make our own decisions, and assert our free will.
I’m not suggesting we abruptly open up all of the clubs and return to life as we once knew it pre-pandemic, because that isn’t going to happen. I’m simply here to shed light on the possibility that we could go back to some more semblance of ‘normality’.
With work from home still in place, that is.