Nations Are Finally Beginning to Reject the Permanent Covidocracy
With plummeting COVID cases and deaths, patience for endless lockdowns is wearing thin.
“Simon says mask! Simon says unmask! Simon says mask again! Simon says lock down! Simon says you can unlock! Simon says…” Enough, already! Countries are finally starting to opt out.
Only those with tremendous hubris could ever have believed you can micromanage a highly contagious airborne virus through on-off masking and lockdowns, and by great coincidence they appear to be those who believe you can do likewise with something as complicated as the economy. It’s not surprising that the latest “Simon says mask, even if fully vaccinated!” is coming from the same WHO director-general who at least was a Marxist as a member of the Ethiopian Tigray People’s Liberation Front.
Of course, there’s always a reason. This time it’s the so-called “Delta variant” of COVID-19, which, apparently, is considerably more contagious than previous variants. Except that as soon as we began seeing any variants at all, this was a predictable development. A pathogen’s purpose is ensuring survival of its gene line, not making anyone sick. So, a more efficient way for COVID to sow its wild oats is to become more contagious. The more virulent strains will beat out its competitors and become predominant.
Fact is, the pathogen that does the least damage to its host is most likely to survive and thrive. So sometimes we see evolution towards lower lethality. Syphilis when first observed in 1494-95 killed and crippled very quickly, but today if untreated generally takes decades to do so. Problem is, COVID, despite the hype, is already relatively benign compared to the great plagues. Victims are almost exclusively the elderly who are already weakened by other conditions. Updated Italian data show only 3 percent of those dying with the virus didn’t suffer comorbidities and have a median age above life expectancy. There’s little evolutionary pressure for COVID to become even tamer. That said, there is evolutionary pressure to not become more severe.
The speed with which the COVID-19 vaccines were developed was utterly amazing. (Second-fastest was mumps: four years.) Annual booster shots can help keep up with variant evolution. But unless somebody devises a jab that covers all the variants (a goal with flu shots since at least 2008that we still haven’t met) even with boosters we’re not going to vaccinate our way out of the variant conundrum. Certainly not in the short run. And even with the truly horrific smallpox, which had no such variants and very little resistance among the populace to getting jabbed, it took anywhere from decades to centuries to eradicate the disease depending on which starting point you use.
We are therefore told we are condemned to periodic masking and locking down ad infinitum, regardless of whether we have been vaccinated. (Given how many people probably didn’t want the vaccine but got it because they thought it would return the world to normal, what kind of a message are we sending current fence sitters?) Finally, however, after more than 15 months of “15 days” some countries are saying “Enough!”
The U.S. probably took the lead—yes, even under Democrat Joe Biden—showing this doesn’t need to be a partisan issue. In Singapore, which so far has had minuscule COVID infections and COVID-related deaths, and by coincidence usually comes up first in national I.Q. rankings, three task force ministers have said it’s time to accept that their “new normal” plan is to finally lift the finger off the panic button.
Writing in the Straits Times, the health ministers have said that zero-COVID strategies such as those adopted by Australia and Hong Kong (New Zealand is a better example) can devastate an economy and don’t make sense. Rather, they note, high-vaccine countries are seeing COVID-associated deaths in the same ballpark as seasonal flu deaths. Testing in Singapore will continue, but emphasis will be on those providing quick results with some in the pipeline giving almost instant results.
The officials said that under “the new norm infected people can recover at home,
there may be no need for massive contact tracing or quarantines every time a new case is discovered, Covid infections will no longer be monitored but rather outcomes, large gatherings can be permitted, and travel will be encouraged at least to countries that have also controlled the virus and turned it into an endemic norm.”
History has shown that every pandemic will run its course. We must harness all our energy, resources and creativity to transit as quickly as we can to the desired end-state. Science and human ingenuity will eventually prevail over COVID-19. Cohesion and social consciousness will get us there faster.
In essence, the shift will be from newly decapitated chickens to treating COVID as among a panoply of potentially deadly diseases.
Meanwhile, U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson also says it’s time to learn to live with COVID. Though emphasizing that the pandemic is far from over, he says that as now stands next week face mask rules will be lifted along with those requiring anti-social distancing. Nightclubs will reopen, bars will become normal, and curbs will disappear on the number of people allowed at concerts, in theaters, or at sporting events. Importantly, government would also be able to stop instructing people to work from home, allowing employers to ramp up their plans for a return to office life. And at pubs across the country, people would be allowed to once again order drinks directly from the bar.
These apply to England only, as other parts of the U.K. can determine their own rules.
By contrast, a relative neighbor of Singapore, the Philippines, just won’t let up. Masking whenever outside the home is considered permanent. It’s the only country that requires face shields inside public areas, maintains curfews, enforces anti-social distancing, and keeps schools shuttered, despite a just-released World Bank report that more than 80 percent of Filipino children fall below minimum levels of proficiency, which has worsened because of the shutdown. (The government instantly fixed the problem by demanding that the World Bank apologize.) Fully-vaccinated people still need both a swab test and quarantine to travel between its 2,000 populated islands. Imagine doing that when traveling from any U.S. city to any other? You can’t. Foreign tourism that formerly accounted for 13 percent of national revenue may be restored during the Starship Enterprise’s five-year mission.
The Philippines economy suffered its worst year last year since the country gained independence and continues to shrink. Moody’s forecasts “no return to pre-pandemic levels of output until the end of 2022.” By contrast, it notes, “China, Taiwan, South Korea and Vietnam have returned to previous output levels, while Indonesia and Thailand are on track to return this year.” Singapore’s economy is also expanding.
Yet for its crushing efforts, an analysis by the Australian Lowy Institute earlier this year found the Philippines ranked 79th among 98 nations in controlling the disease. Simon should have said: “Apply a rational mindset and science-based approach.” An iron fist doesn’t control epidemic spread.
Michael Fumento (www.fumento.com) is an attorney, author, and journalist specializing in health and science issues. He’s currently based in the Philippines.