The three major controversies over pandemic management for the past three years have been lockdown measures, universal masking recommendations and mandates, and Covid vaccines.
The last was a pharmaceutical intervention using revolutionary new technology. The first two were radical departures from the existing scientific and policy consensus as encapsulated in official documents from the World Health Organisation (WHO) and in several national pandemic preparedness plans. They established the willingness of the state to dictate every aspect of people’s lives, down to the most ridiculous and absurd details.
For example, people were told when they could shop, the hours during which they could shop, what they could purchase, how close they could get to others and which direction they could move in by following arrows on the floor. Governments also stepped into nations’ bedrooms at home to dictate with whom people could and could not be intimate: a ukase that notoriously turned Professor Neil ‘Lockdown’ Ferguson himself into Professor Pantsdown.
Lockdowns thus proved the extent to which people would comply with state directives without deploying independent critical thinking and, like frogs in boiling water, their almost total lack of concern about the gradually increasing degree of infringements of civil liberties and personal freedoms.
Compliance with often idiotic rules was ratcheted up to another level still with mask recommendations-cum-mandates, with one additional notable feature. Governments were able to mobilise members of the public to exert peer pressure and societal coercion to enforce compliance, backed by often brutal police coercion against pockets of resistance and protest.
In retrospect, it’s doubtful if the degree of state and social coercion deployed to increase vaccine uptake would have been possible without the ground having first been prepared with lockdowns and masks.
Lockdowns were a euphemism for a wholesale shutting down of all social and most economic activities and locking up entire populations under de facto house arrest. They were imposed on and off for two years with the goalposts of justification shifting from flatten the curve in two to three weeks to protect the health system, wait for the vaccine and stop the new variant.
They were based neither on good science and best-practice medicine, nor were they commensurate with the age-stratified threat from the novel coronavirus to individual and public health. By contrast, the health, mental health, social, educational and economic harms caused by the lockdowns have locked in generational poverty and inequality within and among states.