Adeela Hameed

Is Total Lockdown Viable?

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A look into Coronavirus and its Effect on World Economy

The world is under complete shutdown. Economic systems are falling. Businesses are closed. People are staying indoors. Amid such a scenario, what baffles us is whether all of this is necessary or not. Was it a good decision to call for a worldwide closedown? Although majority will agree to this, even I do, some eminent doctors and pathologists believe otherwise. A recent article in The Spectator (March 28, 2020 issue) written by Dr John Lee, a recently retired professor of Pathology and a former NHS consultant, baffled me and I considered conveying this information to the general, panic-struck, public.

It is a fact that this strain of coronavirus is new, unknown to scientists, and highly contagious. However in reality, rate and number of deaths reported vary with what is publicly broadcast. What Dr. Lee talks about in his article, specifically, is the manner in which we are treating this infection as opposed to the more common influenza. Not just him, but a number of medical practitioners and microbiologists agree that total lockdown and neglect of basic economic structure is an error committed by affected countries all over the world.

As per statistics, overall death rate solely because of Covid-19 is way less than what is being projected. Although it does affect people with weak immune systems and existing underlying problems the most, with increased fatalities occurring in this group, but the impact of coronavirus on people with no underlying issue is significantly less. As has been continually reported that almost 50% of the positive cases show no symptoms while many others display just mild episodes, hence it should be understood that lethality of this virus is being blown out of proportion. Death rates in two neighbouring countries, Italy and Germany, cannot or should not vary by more than 8%. We know that Germany has reported fewer deaths than Italy and less number of positive cases as well. It means that either the virus strains are different in both countries or we cannot compare death rates in two separate nations. Hence, the basic data interpretation concerning death rates should be addressed properly.

Prevalence of most deaths in the elderly with pre-existing medical conditions proves that coronavirus is responsible for reducing the average life expectancy in a person with a weak immune system and/or heart disease, asthma, motor neuron disease, etc. What happened in Italy was a lot many deaths than any healthcare system would cope with, and it did affect us. Grim details described from the country added to the already brewing anxiety. But what we failed to notice is that the number of positive cases might really have been far more; merely because we considered the number of cases announced from the hospital and neglected those already existing in the population with no symptoms. Therefore, the death rate might actually be 10 to 20 times less than what is documented and telecast.

Another important aspect that needs to be understood is that as per records from the United States Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, many people are killed by the common influenza virus in the US, however we don’t draft graphs for the seasonal flu like we did for Covid-19. If we did, the same exponential increase in deaths would be noticed. As per their estimate, since September last year, 23,000 Americans have been killed because of the flu, 390,000 hospitalized, and 38 million infected. Just because the flu is a known name, does not make it any less dangerous. Similar to the Covid-19 effects, if a person comes to the hospital with a compromised immune system or a disease such as cancer and the flu, the possibility of death increases significantly. What is happening all over the world right now is the same thing, except the cause of death is specifically associated to the coronavirus rather than the patient’s pre-existing condition. The cause of death, when a patient died from a flu with an underlying condition, is listed as the underlying condition and not respiratory failure due to the flu. But now with this new coronavirus gaining a dreadful foothold in our global community, the cause is being listed as Covid-19 instead of the patient’s original medical history. This distorts numbers related to death rate exclusively due to coronavirus, which as per real-time stats is very low in healthy individuals. Almost all of these healthy patients certainly recover.

The result of this lockdown is excessive pressure on the world economy, with global recession and increased unemployment in tow. Life, as we know it, has been thrown out of balance. In a country like India, where most people earn on a daily-wage basis, what is seen is mass exodus of workers from the place of their work to the place of their birth. People, migrant labourers, are being sanitized like cattle on roads, with no food to eat and no place to call home. India, a nation that thrives on the idea of ‘unity in diversity and Bharat Maata’, is seeing its own people being forced to return to their birthplaces just because the ‘so-called’ motherland failed to provide. The middle class workers are hit as well. Daily activities of vendors, businesspersons, media, transporters, and the lot have been curbed. Everyone is losing everything. People are confined inside their houses with no other work than to look out for coronavirus related news. This has brought home anxiety disorders in many otherwise healthy individuals. Economic instability is about to bring about a pandemic corona never will.

Social distancing can prevent accelerated spread of this virus to the highly vulnerable group and reduce load of patients on hospitals, however, absolute captivity decreases the ability of a nation to survive on its own. More than the virus itself, what makes the situation worse is the panic epidemic. In this hour of crisis, we have to yet again perceive this question and ask ourselves and our government: is total lockdown viable? As Dr. Lee points out in his article, it is not a matter of lives vs money but lives vs lives.

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