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Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses whose effects range from a common cold to potentially deadly conditions caused by strains such as Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS-CoV) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS-CoV). The symptoms of the coronavirus include fever, dry cough, tiredness, shortness of breath, breathing difficulties, and tightness in the chest. In more severe cases, the coronavirus can cause pneumonia, kidney failure, and even death.
Globally, there have been reported 156,884 cases, 5,839 of which ended in a lethal outcome and 75,937 in recovery (Newey and Gulland). In March 2020, when the outbreak became pandemic, some countries with a concerning number of cases have gone on lockdown. This paper discusses the life of regular citizens during a lockdown and explains why it is not always the most appropriate solution.
The Effects of the Coronavirus
The question arises as to why governments decide to resort to such radical measures as putting entire countries on lockdown because of a virus with a 3% mortality rate. Indeed, the outbreak of the coronavirus is not the largest in history. The 1918 Spanish influenza (H1N1 virus) took the lives of as many as 50 million people. 575,400 people fell victim to a more recent pandemic of the same virus that took place in 2009 (Newey and Gulland). However, it should be noted that among coronavirus epidemics, the current COVID-19 outbreak has so far been the most prominent (Newey and Gulland). There is no official treatment yet, and the development of such is complicated by the virus mutating into a second strain.
Among other effects, the coronavirus outbreak took a toll on the economy and social life. The sectors that were hit the hardest by the pandemic are leisure, airlines, and hospitality (Fraser). The operations of seasonal businesses are also disrupted without a flow of guests and visitors. Employees are struggling to work from the confines of their house. Not any job can be easily done remotely, and those working for a wage are facing an indefinite break and money losses. Further, the health systems of many countries prove to be not as resilient and equipped as they were seen to be. In this atmosphere of panic and desperation, the first goal that countries are concentrating their efforts on is stopping the spread through travel bans and lockdowns.
Lockdowns and Their Efficiency
While governments are fighting the virus and trying to recover the economy, citizens are trying to adjust to the changes. In his opinion piece, Parks describes what life is like during the Italian lockdown. A lockdown is defined as an emergency protocol that prohibits people from leaving a particular area. Parks’ normal course of life was disrupted, and so were the lives of many other people.
The article provides the writer’s accounts of other affected Italians’ struggles: for instance, small business owners are complaining that they are barely staying afloat. Besides, the coronavirus ruined the festival week in Italy, the time when the tourist inflow is stable and businesses are thriving. Parks adds that the lockdown taught him to be almost spiritual about life and showed him the importance of letting go. Suddenly, his plans proved to be futile because trips, events, and even Mass were canceled. The author writes that the current situation is now permeated with the overwhelming feeling of powerlessness and only a faint hope of a brief resolution.
A lockdown may seem to be a radical but effective measure against virus spread. However, Parks expresses his concerns about the decision: namely, he claims that a situation this dire puts too much power in the hands of the government. The Italian government is represented by two major parties: the center-left Democratic Party and the maverick Five Star Movement. Parks explains that the parties disagree on every single issue and only stay in the office to prevent the xenophobic right-wing League party from gaining leverage. The pandemic is likely to help the parties find a middle ground. There is a possibility that once the pandemic is on the ebb, the authorities will not want to give up their newly acquired power.
Apart from fueling the toxic political dynamics, lockdowns have other adverse side effects. Rauhala et al. elaborate that a measure as radical as a total lockdown might as well have the effect that is the opposite of what the government wishes to accomplish. The official announcement makes people who are already concerned start to actively panic. For some of them, this panicky state will be enough to pack their belongings and leave a country or a city as soon as possible. Parks concurs with this opinion: he reports that the Italian government is extremely unhappy with residents fleeing the state. This outcome shows that putting a country on lockdown shows a certain misunderstanding for human psychology.
Another aspect that needs to be mentioned when discussing the efficiency of lockdowns is whether this measure is the key or an auxiliary solution. Rauhala et al. warn readers about the oversimplification of the situation: imposing travel restrictions should be only a part of the strategy. The country that could lead by example in this case could be South Korea (SK). Being in close proximity to China and recently experiencing the second-largest outbreak, these days, SK sees a significant decrease – a result achieved without a lockdown.
Porterfield writes that SK was able to mobilize its healthcare system and conduct almost 250,000 tests, which pushed the mortality rate below 0.7%. Besides, the government made a lot of effort tracking credit cards, mobile phones, and camera footage to identify exposed citizens. The example of SK shows that an epidemic can be tackled by uniting the efforts of the healthcare and administrative sectors and raising awareness.
Since December 2019, the world has been closely monitoring the outbreak of SARS-CoV-2, a new strain of coronavirus that has not been previously found in humans. As of March 2020, the outbreak received the status of a pandemic, which pushed many countries to take preventive and reactive measures. The virus has put a strain on the global economy, compromising airlines, leisure, and hospitality sectors, and ordinary people found lockdowns to be disruptive to the normal course of their lives.
At first glance, travel restrictions appear to be a radical but necessary solution. However, upon closer look, one may discover that a lockdown has the potential of accumulating too much power in the hands of particular government officials. Besides, lockdowns may cause the opposite effect, making people flee cities and countries. To sum up, lockdowns should be part of the strategy, accompanied by universal testing and comprehensive analytics.
Fraser, Douglas. Coronavirus Effects on the Markets – The Week of Economic Contagion. Web.
Newey, Sarah, and Anne Gulland. What is Coronavirus, How Did It Start and Could the Outbreak Grow Bigger? Web.
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Parks, Tim. This Is Life Under Lockdown in Italy. Web.
Porterfield, Natalie. South Korea Sees Coronavirus Slowdown—Without A Lockdown, But With Nearly 250,000 Tests. Web.
Rauhala, Emily et al. First, China. Then, Italy. What the U.S. Can Learn from Extreme Coronavirus Lockdowns. Web.