Chapter 11: “lessons leant from COVIDs: the failure of social distancing”
During the COVID-19 waves there was a politico-medico obsession with social distancing to the extent failure to adhere to it could result in warnings from COVID-19 “police forces”, fines, imprisonment and of course the dressing down given by “outraged” municipal, state, provincial and federal governments. These dressing down tantrums were as tedious as the propaganda supporting social distancing. Mayor John Tory of Toronto was on the public stage and seemed to revel in indignation to the point of absurd comedy. Premier Ford of Ontario looked like the big bad wolf ready to huff and puff and blow the house down i.e. close the economy again.
There is a bit of contradiction in the term “social distancing” in that yes it enabled crippled hospital systems ravaged by the financial cuts imposed upon them by the politicos to barely hold and treat the infected and that fitted the political agenda which almost always was short term. The contradiction is that social distancing protected many from immediate infection but made them easy targets for subsequent waves particularly after economies began reopening. Once reopening occurred any pull back would not be tolerated by populations ravaged by unemployment and its consequent suicides, depression and anxiety. So it was short term pain for even longer term pain. Social distancing ruined millions financially as well as psychologically. It also bankrupted governments.
It introduced a stubborn and pervasive nasty streak in both politics and social life. Demonstrations became violent and food lines were a breeding ground for extremism which we will deal with later. Although we have no data backing this up the thought by many of us physicians in 2030 was that had there been no social distancing herd immunity, as ugly as it would be to develop, would have reduced the decimation caused by social distancing.
Lastly we must ask why was social distancing so widely accepted during the early COVID–19 days? Aside from the long arm of a pathetically small group of COVID police it was fear that kept many in a state of what seemed to be eternal lockdown. And the fear was fuelled by governmental propaganda, people’s ignorance and the never-ending media stories about doom and gloom with real time spinning casino wheels spewing out deaths and infections. Just when the curve had flattened in many countries then horror stories about India and Brazil flooded the telescreen with mass burial grounds being the topping on the fear flavoured sundae. You gotta scratch your head and wonder why COVID-19 was really any worse that many other pandemics where there was no social distancing? I mean the conspiracy theorists had many holes in their arguments but one that made sense to me was bring the fear to a feverish (no pun intended) pitch and set the way for Big Pharma to develop a most profitable vaccine.