The lesser evil

No solution is perfect or indisputable. But this virus will not go away on its own, and it will take a long time to have an effective vaccine. Until then, we will all lose quality of life.

Since the pandemic began, the debate has been heated about which are the best strategies to fight it and, in particular, whether we should protect health more, with confinement, or not let the economy die, maintaining, to the maximum, the normal life.

At the international level, there have even been different approaches, from the Swedes who never fully confined, to the Chinese and other Asians who strongly confined.

In any case, the pandemic put us in the worst possible position in terms of decisions: having to choose between evils, with great uncertainty. It is very easy to decide when we know the results of decisions well, when these results are very different from one another, and there are good and bad ones.

In the case of strategies to combat the pandemic, the scenario is the opposite: we cannot anticipate the effects of each strategy well, different strategies can have similar results and, worst of all, we are always at a loss, having to choose between the bad and the very bad.

It is not surprising, therefore, that there is a scenario of controversy, divergent technical and political opinions and even rumors, lies and miracle solutions.

What should happen, however, was the opposite: a clear discourse, in which political uncertainties and responsibilities were assumed by those who decide. And to say that, in the face of a pandemic, societies will lose. It is important to minimize the damage.

In this sense, we have to take into account the spread of the pandemic, what is its speed and mortality, the effects that the same cause on the economy and other diseases, as well as the effects of the different strategies of combat on all these variables.

To say that we cannot confine, because it destroys the economy and causes many non-Covid deaths, is a false question. It is that if we do not confine (totally or partially), the spread of the pandemic is such that hospitals stop responding, not only to Covid patients but to everyone else. Furthermore, in an explosive pandemic scenario, it is the people themselves who are afraid and leave the house as little as possible, even if there is no confinement decreed by the Government.

Likewise, saying that confining is the solution is wrong. Total confinement causes a social and economic dislocation that causes fatal victims (from non-Covid diseases, from cardiovascular to cancers, through mental illnesses), economic victims (the companies that close, the people who are unemployed) and social victims (students without learning, increased inequality, increased loneliness).

A serious discourse about the pandemic, and strategies for combating it, must start by accepting losses: we will always get worse than if there were no pandemic (and it does not matter now, to attribute responsibilities to the origin of the said). Then, finding a balance, serious and fair, without demagogies or magical solutions, between the direct fight against Covid and its spread (where confinement is the best solution) and the possible maintenance of normal life (so that the effects of therapy are no worse than those of the disease).

In practice, this implies different solutions for different sectors, population groups and a dynamic of trial and error, adaptive to socioeconomic and public health changes.

In this sense, it seems rational to me:

  1. Use of a mask in all possible situations (even outdoors). It is a very small sacrifice compared to the gains we have in terms of slowing down the spread of the virus;
  2. Prohibition of nightlife activities inside doors, as they are very conducive to the spread of the virus;
  3. Consolidate teleworking, whenever possible;
  4. Maintenance of face-to-face classes, for reasons of efficiency and equity, with mandatory use of a mask and other health rules;
  5. Enhancement of services at home, whether private or public, allowing people at risk to almost never have to leave home;
  6. Permission for individual outdoor sports activities (provided they do not cause large gatherings). As for collective and indoor, always wearing a mask (a necessary sacrifice);
  7. Assistance for cultural or sporting activities can happen as long as you have large distances and with a mask (ex: imposing 10% limitations on a football stadium, but allowing a cheerleader to join as before, it is stupid; 10% capacity, yes , but with assistance distributed throughout the stadium).

Anyway, no solution is perfect or indisputable. But this virus will not go away on its own, and it will take a long time to have an effective vaccine. Until then, we will all lose quality of life.

However, we can conclude that these phenomena are inherent to globalization. Therefore, there too, we will have to make choices. Either we slow down globalization, or we create new protection tools.

The author writes according to the old spelling.

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