Why Is Everything Reopening While We Still Haven't Controlled COVID-19?

Published May 31st, 2020 - 03:00 GMT
Why Is Everything Reopening While We Still Haven't Controlled COVID-19?
Countries that introduced 'herd immunity' strategies early this year were accused of sacrificing human lives to maintain the economy. (Shutterstock: VectorMine)

For months, we've heard officials tell us that lockdowns will last for as long as needed in order to contain the coronavirus and that it's essential in protecting lives that are more precious than anything else. However, the whole world is now reopening, cautiously but rapidly despite the imminent threat of COVID-19. So, what has changed?

Maybe experts didn't anticipate the Coronavirus outbreak to last this long or thought that an effective drug will eventually help control the severe symptoms and save lives ultimately leading to the pandemic not being so fatal. The sure thing, we are witnessing though, is that countries are, shifting their strategies and adjusting them to accommodate a potentially long-term emergency.

Countries that introduced 'herd immunity' strategies early this year faced strong backlash and were accused of sacrificing human lives to maintain the economy, as opposed to ones where curfews and lockdown were lawfully imposed on millions of residents for several weeks.

Yet, the sharp economic losses that resulted from less than two months of closures, travel bans, and massive layoffs that threaten the world with several crises may have pushed officials to revise their plans and slowly start believing in what has been termed as 'soft herd immunity' or 'responsible reopening', where businesses resume work carefully and residents reach a slow rise in a number of cases at a rate that doesn't overwhelm the health systems' capacity until communities achieve the 60% immunity rate that has been hoped for by herd immunity supporters.

People who argue in favor of the herd immunity strategy explain that avoiding an immediate high death toll in the wake of the Coronavirus by closing businesses indefinitely will eventually cause hundreds of millions to die slowly out of hunger and poverty instead.

Despite positive initial reports of successful first phases of vaccine and drug trials in several countries across the globe, the world doesn't seem to have the luxury of waiting in lockdown for any longer, especially that the economy has already entered dangerous territory.

Following a smart and soft herd immunity tactic, evident in cautious re-openings and partial curfews, can keep the most vulnerable safe by keeping them at homes, while allowing the more healthy to take turns in gradually operating the economy and building a large-scale immunity amongst those, whose bodies can resist the disease and not even show symptoms.

A slow herd immunity scenario, where the old and chronically sick are protected and the health system is maintained, can keep the economy as healthy as possible until the end of the pandemic.

Having a majority of immune people, who have already contracted the virus and recovered with the least minimum damage, is crucial in avoiding a devastating second wave feared by many experts next fall, since it will not force governments to take severe lockdown measures that could further harm the poor and the unemployed.

Consequently, not only will a slow herd immunity strategy allow for a gradual and more persistent recovery in the markets, while saving lives, but it will also be a good back up plan in case medical experiments fail to offer effective means to end to the pandemic anytime soon.

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