Winter is coming: Why Lockdown 2.0 is really needed

We are entering the winter in the Northern hemisphere, coronavirus is spreading much faster than it was at its first peak.

It took 10 months to reach over 1 million deaths worldwide and just 17 days to surpass 1.1 million. If this trend continues, it will take less than 5 months to reach 2 million deaths.

Countries across Europe are reinstating partial lockdowns following the resurgence of cases and governments are facing serious healthcare challenges as intensive care units are filling up quickly.

Understandably, people have become fatigued from following draconian measures for several months. The lockdowns are testing the limits of individual freedom, the mental health of communities and on a macro level, are causing economic meltdowns.

Having said that, some governments are reluctant to implement stringent actions and are relying on the concept of herd immunity to give individuals a feeling of increased freedom and ease economic woes. However, they are playing a dangerous game.

It is worrying to see that more than ever; the moral values of humanity are at stake. Moral decline has never been more evident after seeing that policy makers are prioritizing economic growth over human life.

A few weeks ago, I had the chance to speak with some of the top experts in medicine, epidemiology and virology.

They agree that a widely-distributed vaccine is still far away, and the long-term impacts are uncertain so for now the best we can do is to learn to live with this virus. Currently 11 vaccines are in the final stage of testing, including The University of Oxford and AstraZeneca, Pfizer & BioNTech and Moderna. Pfizer announced that it will seek FDA approval this month, making it a frontrunner in the vaccine race.

DOWNPLAYING RISKS: REMEMBER CLIMATE CHANGE DENIERS?

Science will eventually get us through this crisis but it’s shocking to see misleading information and irresponsible declarations coming from the experts.

Last month, a group of professors launched The Great Barrington Declaration which opposes the idea of shutdowns and advocates herd immunity. The group proposes we allow the highly infectious virus to spread among the young and healthy, while somehow protecting the most vulnerable people from getting sick to allow a resumption of daily life.

Simply put, this is insane!

What is more horrific is to see some governments supporting this approach. Global herd immunity requires 60–70% of the world’s population to be immune to the virus and is a fatal strategy that would kill millions of vulnerable people. Moreover, there is limited evidence to support post infection immunity because we don’t know how long the antibodies last.

In a counter response, The John Snow Memorandum, named after the renowned British physician who helped halt the 1854 cholera outbreak, called this approach ‘flawed,’ saying, “Uncontrolled transmission in younger people risks significant morbidity and mortality across the whole population.”

Signed by almost 7,000 scientists, researchers and healthcare professionals the declaration urges authorities to do everything in their power to contain the spread of Covid-19.

A recent Stanford University study found that the county lockdown policies in the US, including stay-at-home and business closure restrictions, reduced disease transmission rates by 9 to 14 percent between early March and mid-April.

THE LIGHT AT THE END OF THE TUNNEL?

We still can’t see the light at the end of the tunnel, but it is promising to take note from the success of Asian nations. Singapore, Vietnam, China and Hong Kong have used past experiences and decisive strategies, that they have been following from the first day of the outbreak, to successfully contain the spread of the virus.

The cumulative death rates per million are 696 in the United States, 685 in the UK and 563 in France, compared to 9 in South Korea, 5 in Singapore and 0.36 in Vietnam.

Asia has been hit with SARS in 2003, forcing many countries to adapt, adjust and improve their healthcare infrastructure and tracing systems.

Today citizens in Wuhan, the Chinese city once the epicenter of the outbreak, are now back to normal thanks to the definitive measures in combatting the spread of the disease. Taiwan has not seen a local case for more than 200 days and will likely be among the few economies to grow this year.

We can draw lessons from these experiences, build on the learnings from the first peak and foster a collaborative global approach to replicate a similar outcome.

Practicing physical distancing, scaling up testing, developing innovative and rigorous testing and contact tracing methods, isolating positive cases, protecting high-risk groups and making sure that we leave no one behind… It won’t be an easy path and there will be socio-economic hurdles and privacy concerns but now is the time for governments to step up to the challenge, collaborate and share learnings if they want to win this battle.

Protecting people’s lives should be the number one priority and with winter fast approaching, it’s extremely critical to double down on the strategies that we know work. Otherwise, a possible third wave could be as enormous as the Spanish flu, a scenario which would have long-lasting and devastating impacts on economy, healthcare systems and our social lives.

As Marie Curie says, “Nothing in life is to be feared; it is only to be understood. Now is the time to understand more, so that we may fear less.”

Originally published at https://www.linkedin.com.

CEO, Arçelik