What’s occurring in China is brutal, but it’s not necessarily surprising. In many ways, the Chinese people have always been prisoners, regularly subjected to cruel and unusual punishments. Now, though, the people of Xi’an are literal prisoners, quite literally sealed off from society. When will they be freed? A week from now, a month, a year? Sadly, we don’t know.
This is the model that will consume all public discussion of the pandemic response in the future: seeking but never finding anyone to bear responsibility. This is typical for episodes in history that are characterized by mass frenzy and distorted fanaticism. Once the mania is gone, it is hard to find anyone who is willing to accept responsibility for feeding it and acting upon it.
The Covid policies we see today in Canada are the product of pretending for two years that Covid can be stopped, that no trade-offs exist when it comes to Covid, and shunning debate on even the most obvious trade-offs and alternative Covid policies. The lack of attention to the human and economic costs of Canada’s Covid response has been appalling.
It’s time we stop congratulating ourselves for taking away respectable professional opportunities from kids. Their lives have been utterly wrecked during this pandemic response. A slight consolation would be to celebrate when the kids want to work, earning money, feeling valuable, and finding some meaning beyond mere compliance with schoolmasters and bureaucrats.
There is much to dislike in Spiegelhalter and Masters’ book on the plague year, but considering the partisan and authoritarian nonsense, garbage advice, and terrible statistical blunders we’ve grown used to, the book comes across as fairly balanced. They have some clear blind spots (vaccines, effectiveness of lockdowns, Vitamin D) but there are much worse things to read than Covid by Numbers.
Whenever applied, the precautionary principle needs to be challenged and stand scrutiny, to help us make decisions when there is uncertainty, and the situation is in flux as is typical in a pandemic. These alternatives emphasize seeking new facts, being rigorously honest about the evidence, being open to being wrong, adjusting our actions as we come to understand more, and communicating with trust, not fear.
It’s essential we debrief on the harm we caused – the epidemiological harm we simply displaced andconverted to economic harm that, at the end of the chain, has caused equally real people to suffer and die at higher rates than they would’ve had we acted differently. It’s irresponsible and unscientific to suppress discussions on the inconvenient truth that our response to the pandemic likely indirectly killed people.
By using general lockdowns, and by treating everyone – including school children – as being equally at risk of suffering from Covid, governments caused resources, attention, and mitigation efforts to be spread too thinly. Far too many resources, attention, and mitigation efforts were spent where they had much smaller impact than they would have had were they instead focused on protecting the most vulnerable.