If you’ve seen the news anytime since January, chances are you’ve heard about the coronavirus. In fact, it’s been in the news cycle every day since then, so unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’d know. The virus, originating in Wuhan, China has spread all over the world, including to Australia. And whilst the Australian response has been fairly decent, it’s not been perfect. In fact, it’s been far from perfect.
Over the weeks & months since the virus hit Australia, we’ve borne witness to both Federal & State Governments taking numerous actions in order to keep the virus at bay as much as possible, & in turn limit the spread. Measures such as business closures, lockdowns, transitions to online education, social distancing, even limits on weddings & funerals, have all been put in place to keep people safe. Police have also ramped up patrols, fining people for even the most insignificant thing as non-essential travel. Yet while these draconian measures are, for the most part, keeping people safe for now, they can only be held in place for so long until people become agitated & a rebellion begins.
The governments of the national cabinet started off decently. I have said time & time again that I have much respect for the Federal Health Minister, Greg Hunt. He has been put in an unenviable position & has dealt with it gracefully. On the other hand, the NSW State Health Minister, Brad Hazzard, has been nothing short of a disaster. The Ruby Princess debacle still haunts us all, with a criminal investigation now underway. With both the Australian Border Force & NSW Health/the NSW government blaming each other, it’s become quite the drama of the century. Yet no matter who is to blame, this cruise liner has been the major source of the increased number of cases of the virus in Australia.
The more concerning issue however is how quickly & willingly Australians have ceded their rights & civil liberties to their governments. If there is one thing that should be recognized it is this: Governments are quick to take people’s rights away, but are slow to give them back, if at all. As it now stands, we can only go out for ‘essential’ reasons. The problem that arises from that is the term ‘essential’ is entirely subjective. Currently ‘essential’ reasons are those such as shopping for essential items including food, toiletries, medical supplies & the like, & going to work if you’re classified as an essential worker, that is, working in the medical, education & constructions industries, or working in essential stores including Woolworths, Coles, Aldi & fast food outlets. School is also classified as essential, however the vast majority of students have transitioned to online learning.
The problem arises from the interpretation of the rules. As of this point in time, everyone has been put into lockdown. We are all sitting inside our houses, apartments, or what have you, just waiting out the virus. While we’re trapped inside trying not to go insane, our residences slowly turning into our own personal prisons, the economy is collapsing around us. The state we are currently in is not one that is viable for more than a short period of time. Recently, governments have been saying this could last six months, or even so long as twelve, & that we could be in a similar state until a vaccine is found. From what we know of a potential vaccine right now for this virus, there is one that is undergoing human trials which are going to last twelve months. It is likely we will then have to wait a further amount of time for the vaccine to be mass produced, & that it only IF it works. We could be risking utter turmoil for absolutely nothing. And that’s clearly a thought that hasn’t crossed the minds of many.
Even if this potential vaccine was to be a success, twelve months is too long to wait before opening businesses back up. And that’s if there’s any businesses for people to go back to. The longer we wait, the more damage is done. By the time we start reopening things, people may be out of work much more permanently. Tens of thousands of jobs could be lost. We are staring down the barrel of high unemployment rates. And, with the collapse of an economy, be it a recession or even a depression, we unfortunately risk an increase in suicide rates. And that is one thing above all else that is clearly not being very well considered: mental health.
The draconian measures that have been put in place have been extremely detrimental to the mental health of many Australians. People can’t even go for a leisurely drive anymore without being find for ‘non-essential travel’. Police are fining people left, right & centre for some of the most ridiculous things. Many of the utterly outrageous stories are coming out of the Socialist Republic of Victoria, where corruption in the police force runs rampant. A 17 year old learner driver was fined over $1600 for simply learning to drive with her mother by her side. As a learner driver myself, I can imagine how emotionally scarring that would be for a new driver. You’d be wary of going driving again. Then there was the case of police entering a house without a warrant (practically illegal in itself), & fining three young men $1600 each for not complying with social distancing rules due to their playing video games together. And only this week, Victorian Police fined a married couple $1600 each for non-essential travel after the woman posted photographs of a holiday they had taken mid last year on Facebook. What the Victorian Police were doing stalking people’s Facebook pages is anyone’s guess, yet it is extremely questionable, even so much as a violation of privacy. The fines of the learner driver & the married couple have since been withdrawn, justifiable considering how ridiculous they were. If anything, now is the perfect time for learner drivers to get their hours up.
Mental health is just as important as physical health right now. People are cooped up in their homes, some likely on the verge of insanity. People need to be out. We’re social beings by nature. We need to be moving. We need to be out amongst the world. Being trapped in our homes for an extended period of time is only going to be detrimental to our own mental wellbeing. Individuals, particularly those who live alone, are going to be left in the company of their own minds, leaving time for anxieties to fester, & a more permanent feeling of isolation to set in. I mentioned previously that individuals are now being fined for simply going for a leisurely drive. That in itself is entirely preposterous. Going for a drive can be mentally soothing. It allows you to get out of your home, get out of the area you live in, the area you are trapped in, for just a little while, just to escape. Going for a drive on your own, or even just with those you live with, with no intention of getting out of the car until you get home, is not going to harm anyone. It won’t pose any risk whatsoever of spreading the virus. In discussing this point with others, the straw man argument was brought up that going for a drive could result in a car accident, thereby taking medical workers away from dealing with the coronavirus & risking the spread of the virus. This is unlikely to occur. And in any event, it could occur anyway for individuals who are travelling to grocery stores to stock up on essential items. Going for a leisurely drive should be viewed as perfectly fine. As should going fishing alone, sitting & reading on a park bench alone, hell, any activity where you are isolated from others should be permitted. You’re not going to risk spreading or contracting the virus doing anything by yourself. It’s common sense.
As to the police that are moving people on from doing these things, even going so far as to fine them, they themselves are, quite ironically, not complying with social distancing measures by going up to these people. There has also been footage of police attempting to move people on using their vehicles, almost running people over. This is dangerous, unruly behaviour which should not be tolerated by anyone. I can understand that they’re doing their jobs, but there are much better, more sensible ways of going about it all than almost causing harm to someone. What’s more, police have been patrolling with others & having friendly conversations, yet haven’t been the standard 1.5 metres apart. If you’re going to ask others to move on, you should be setting a good example & complying with the social distancing measures yourself. Again, it’s common sense.
Ultimately, we cannot keep the lockdowns in place for an extended period of time, for multiple reasons. First, it would likely be economic suicide. It would be a much better idea to reopen some businesses now, including cafes & restaurants, businesses that have likely been hit the hardest by the shutdowns, & then go into a period of hibernation in the winter. As it’s been shown thus far, the virus has thrived in countries in the Northern Hemisphere due to the cold weather. Down here in the Southern Hemisphere, we have been less greatly affected as we’ve just come out of Summer, typically experiencing much warmer weather. We haven’t yet been struck by the cold, which will show itself in a couple of months. So now is the time to reopen some of these businesses, just so they can survive more than anything & by extensions keep the economy afloat. Then, we can go into another shutdown for the duration of the winter, which is typically our flu season, & reopen again in mid to late September when Spring comes into season. Otherwise, if we just continue to wait, there may be less businesses to go back to.
There is, however, one other more important reason as to why lengthy lockdowns are untenable. This virus thrives in people with suppressed immune systems. Why? Because the immune system is responsible for fighting diseases that enter our bodies, & if the immune system is suppressed, that means our bodies are unable to fight off diseases effectively. Thereby, as a result, we may succumb to a disease that could be fought off by a healthy immune system. As you’ve no doubt seen, many of those who have tragically died with the coronavirus were already battling previously diagnosed medical conditions, or have had suppressed immune systems. That is why it is so important that our immune systems are kept healthy & operational, & to their highest possible standards. This is where the lockdowns come in. Being locked down & socially isolated for a long period of time can weaken our immune systems, thereby making us all more vulnerable to disease. Social isolation has previously been linked to inflammation & higher levels of stress & anxiety, which can in turn weaken the immune system. As mentioned previously, we are social beings. We were not made to be sitting around isolated from each other for lengthy periods of time. It is detrimental to both our mental & physical health, & in the case of a disease like coronavirus, it could ultimately be our downfall.
Yes, the lockdown has done some good. We have managed to flatten the curve, & there are less people being infected. Yet ultimately, the lockdowns are not viable in the long term. In short, they could result in more deaths, particularly if the vaccine does not work, & if a vaccine or a cure are never found. Put it this way, they never found a vaccine for the SARS virus. They’ve been looking for a vaccine, or even a cure, for HIV for decades. Sometimes, vaccines simply do not occur. And in those cases, we are left to our own devices to fight disease. The one thing we may have to rely on is our immune system.
Ultimately, in order to have our best chance of fighting this disease, our immune systems need to be strong. And in order to keep them strong, the heavy lockdowns have to come to an end. Otherwise, it could spell an even larger health crisis. Because what may appear to be working in the short term could be damaging in the long term.