New South Wales is entering its third week of lockdown, 18 months after the virus first arrived and was almost eradicated.
For those who believe the vaccinations are a risk worth taking, the vaccination rates are pitifully distant from a level we might consider useful or, sotto voce, herd immunity.
So, back under the duvet for the residents of the biggest economy in the country, because, to paraphrase the head of the Australian Medical Association, Dr Omar Khorshid, “the only alternative to lockdown is more lockdown”.
You may be wondering whether it’s possible to seek a second opinion on that diagnosis and prescription.
The idea of giving up on the tacit “zero covid” strategy was floated in anonymous briefings to the press last week, only to be met with ridicule and accusations of inhumanity but no tangible or executable answer to the question, “the current strategy has clearly failed, so what do we do now?”.
The school holidays finish on Tuesday and thousands of children will be banished to their bedrooms to attend dysfunctional zoom calls with their teachers whilst using the Alt/Tab function to switch back and forth between “class” and Minecraft.
Of course, that describes the kids whose parents are paying attention and haven’t already given up on them. There’s another group, for whom school was probably their last chance of being socialised and staying out of trouble.
Their parents won’t be checking their attendance at virtual class, their internet access and smartphone use will be unrestricted and it’s unlikely they will be prevented from leaving the house during the school day to smoke vapes at the local skate park.
Our local high school suspended more pupils in the term following the last lockdown than they did in the several years prior, combined. The Principal’s hypothesis was that those kids had little to no adult supervision during the lockdown schooling and brought that freedom to misbehave back into the classroom when school returned.
Eventually, and despite the ridiculous Education Department policies aimed at preventing any semblance of consequences for anti-social behaviour, the school sent these kids home either for short term suspensions or, in the extreme cases, they were “invited” to seek an alternate venue for their education.
The impact of this is going to have dire social consequences. Kids who missed significant portions of school life are not only disadvantaged educationally, but have also missed the last safety net between being a normal member of society or living on its periphery, spending increasing amounts of their lives in and out of the criminal justice system.
You may think these forever lockdowns are the correct response to outbreaks and that we can see the tangible benefit to them in terms of reducing the deaths and hospitalisation of the infected.
Consider the possibility you are only seeing one side of the balance sheet.
In the UK, for example, it is estimated 7 million people avoided non-covid health appointments since the virus arrived. What percentage of those will result in a later terminal diagnosis that might have been avoided if caught earlier?
The official death toll from covid (without questioning the difference between “of” and “with”) is 129,000. If 5% of missed appointments lead to an avoidable death, the covid death count will be less than half of the human cost of “saving the NHS”.
Similarly, the feral kids running around the local area while the middle class kids sit at home in class will become a more visible cost over time. Just because we don’t see the impact now, doesn’t mean you aren’t paying. Remember this in five years time when you have a barbecue discussion about the rise of burglaries, car theft, muggings, drug use, etc.
One can avoid reality but one cannot avoid the consequences of avoiding reality.