We have been in Corona-lockdown for about 5 weeks now, here in the Netherlands. As we are starting to see light at the end of the tunnel, it is time to start thinking on how we can get out of it.
I am no expert by any means. The views below are just my personal dribble. Follow the official guidelines of your government. I know I do. Better to be safe than sorry.
- The virus spreads person-to-person through respiratory droplets, mostly by air (e.g. through sneezing, singing or shouting), and much less through objects we touch.
- Almost all casualties are over 50 with the median around 83, and about half had an underlying condition. But I think it is patronizing and inhumane to isolate the elderly and the vulnerable in times when they are in desperate need of human contact.
- Closing schools is highly disruptive to our society. It drives children and parents insane, and keeps adults away from their jobs. And infected children almost never develop any serious symptoms, so they hardly ever sneeze, so they hardly ever contaminate others.
- The pandemic seems to be highly regional (Lombardy, New York, the south of The Netherlands).
- I am still not convinced that COVID-19 is significantly worse than the common flu. What I think we can all agree on, is that COVID-19 is new, which means nobody had any immunity against it. I can't help but wonder if that is sufficient to explain the current pandemic.
What I think we should do
This is going to take longer than anyone of us will be comfortable with. The IC personel can't keep this up for more than a couple of months, locked-up people go mad, and we need to have a healthy economy to pay for all this. I fear that in a couple of weeks the holier than thou types and the this doesn't concern me types will have grown so far apart, that conflicts become inevitable. So, our society needs to get back to normal soon, and we need to find other ways than a lock-down to deal with this pandemic:
- We should not sacrifice our civil rights. They are more important than the stress on ICs, the economy, or anyone we are trying to save from COVID-19.
- We should relax a bit about the 1.5m rule. We should avoid situations where we are packed together over longer periods of time (like in movie theaters), where we sing and shout (like churches and bars), and/or with bad ventilation (like saunas and festival tents). So, we should keep the ban on gatherings, but we shouldn't worry too much if we pass each other in parks or super market aisles.
- We should stay at home if we have any symptoms or suspicions (like contact with someone with symptoms), but we should get back to work otherwise. Be smart about it: work from home if you can, not too many people in one room (use video-conferencing), avoid physical contact.
- We should keep quarantining known and suspected cases.
- We should customize our approach per region. I live in the north of The Netherlands, where we have only a few casualties, while in the south it runs in the thousands. Solidarity is important, but nobody gains from killing the economy here, to solve a problem elsewhere.
- We should enable and support elderly (and other vulnerable population groups) if they want to self-isolate. But if they don't, we should also allow contact with their loved ones. I suspect this is hard to execute (what with dementia, what with conflicting wishes in nursing homes, etc.), but we should at least try to give them control over their own lives.
- We should open schools again, except perhaps in highly contaminated regions.
- We should stop obsessing about daily numbers. They are meaningless. And although statistics (not the same as daily body counts in bold headlines) are a powerful tool, if I have learned anything from my college classes, it is that statistics are tricky. So, remember: lies, damn lies, and statistics.
And remember the disclaimer above.