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article imageOp-Ed: Can you ‘normalize’ COVID? Short answer, no.

By Paul Wallis     Sep 4, 2020 in World
Sydney - Europe is trying to avoid lockdowns, for obvious economic reasons. The UK is trying to dodge them. The US no-lockdowns have been a disaster. So why the sudden dreams of a non-existent “normal”?
Nobody could argue that the lockdowns are expensive, frustrating and in some cases only exist because of sudden outbreaks. Economies are staggering along in whatever form from the effects of the pandemic. Normality is supposed to be the answer. In practice, it's not even the right question.
…But when Europe, which did eventually put the lid on the pandemic pretty effectively despite very difficult outbreaks it’s different. If Europe suddenly stops locking down, it sends a signal to the world.
It could well be the wrong signal. In the absence of any coherent response from the United States, and the UK’s abysmal slapdash response, Europe was the place getting it right.
The problem with any effort to normalize COVID is that it’s not a “normal” disease. It can cause serious complications far beyond just dying. There are many people who are left in care for a long time, with serious medical conditions.
This backlog of cases will obviously grow, accumulating another health demographic of people in care. Over years of ongoing infections, it’s foreseeable that large numbers of people could be in this situation.
There’s another raft of problems, directly related to the disease:
COVID is a truly tricky disease. The numbers and rates of infections have been spiking and in some cases increasing. The current global rate of infection hasn’t budged since July. That’s not a good sign.
In the US, where the infection rate is going down, infections are still around 40,000 a day. There is obviously a large reservoir of infected people who can continue to spread the disease. 5% of the entire population has been infected.
Influenza is the wrong analogy
Influenza made its global debut with a plague. It’s still around. It still kills people, although not on the same scale as COVID. The big difference is that a case of influenza doesn’t include the risk of leaving large numbers of patients with a life-long range of problems. The effects of this disease are quite different.
COVID causes a range of major dysfunctions in patients. They can’t just sneeze and get on with life, unlike the usual flu. “Normal” is out of the question in severe cases.
The risk to kids is still (by now not very excusably) unclear, but not to be ignored. Multiple Inflammatory Syndrome is no joke for worried parents, and a possible infection risk to other kids. So reopening schools could be a bad idea with exponential infection issues possible, despite many highly responsible schools taking the careful approach.
Laissez-faire reopening is asking for trouble
Viruses mutate. The common cold is a coronavirus. Nobody is “immune”. This disease is highly infectious. A sudden virulent form of COVID could be as bad or worse than currently. At these rates of infection, currently just under 300,000 per day, the world could have a permanent problem with continuous infections.
This is also not a seasonal disease. It’s a constant risk of serious medical issues for those infected. Reopening is therefore also a risk, but it could hardly be said to be a calculated risk. It looks more like a desperate attempt to reboot an economy in turmoil than any sort of considered option.
“Normality” is not an option, either, until this virus is on a strong leash. Reopen or don’t reopen, the virus isn’t watching the economic data. People will continue to get sick. People will still be worried about getting it.
Given that “normal” also means joblessness and homelessness for millions of people, and more misery, what’s so great about it? Why would businesses reopen for no other reason than to expose themselves to more risk? What is so unthinkable about a planned, systemic response?
This pandemic is a test of the ability of the world to manage a serious global threat. How would you say that’s going right now? Are you optimistic about a good, well-managed response? That’s what’s wrong with “back to normal”. It’s just too hard to believe.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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